Guide: Growing your hospitality business - how to get bigger and better

Growth is a natural sign that a business is doing something right: it shows that there’s a demand for what you do, and that’s why your customers keep on coming back.

However, growth needs to be approached with a degree of caution. There’s the danger that your business can grow too quickly, or even grow in the wrong ways.

That’s why you need the right tools. That means leveraging the power of the data your business already generates, but which you might not currently be able to access. It means streamlining what you do, reducing complexity and operating costs, enabling your staff to deliver exceptional customer service.

Download our Growing your hospitality business guide to find out more about:

  • The three steps to growth
  • How a regional restaurant group saved £20,000 in commission fees
  • Key questions to ask to discover if your reservations partner is helping or hindering your progress

Download the full guide


    Guide: Fulfilling your profitability potential

    These are tough times for the hospitality sector. We all know the factors: rising costs resulting in narrowing margins, while increased customer expectations are demanding continuous change and improvements.

    And we know that some businesses respond by trying to work harder instead of smarter, pushing already stressed staff to breaking point or beyond. That rarely ends well, and it rarely delivers customer delight. There’s a better way, and that’s to do what you already do – but better.

    All you need to do is unlock the power of the data your business already generates. The results can be extraordinary. At liveRES we’ve spent many years helping hospitality businesses big and small enjoy greater revenue and increased profits. And a huge part of that success is made possible by using integrated technology to share critical data.

    Download our Fulfilling your profitability potential guide to find out more about:

    • How to boost you bottom line
    • How to operate more efficiently and cultivate customer loyalty
    • The essential questions you need to ask yourself about your EPoS integration and how you’re using the data your business produces

    Download the full guide

      On the floor or in the cloud? How hospitality businesses are transforming their IT infrastructure

      In the pub and restaurant industry, trends don’t just affect what’s on your customers’ plates. They can affect every aspect of the business, often in very positive ways.

      One of the most significant and important such trends is the move to cloud-based solutions, which are delivering measurable benefits to many restaurants.

      From good to great

      If your business is already superb at what it does, cloud technology can make a good thing even better. By moving some of your infrastructure to the cloud you can reduce hardware and software costs, cut maintenance and training costs and introduce the ability to scale your solution up or down according to demand.

      Not only that, up-front costs are usually minimal, ongoing costs are predictable and the right solution enables you to take full advantage of available technologies.

      Reasons to head for the cloud

      For example, you might want to move at least some of your EPoS system to mobile devices such as tablets, or to integrate different data sources to provide detailed analysis of occupancy, yield, customer behaviour, inventory management and marketing effectiveness. Life in the cloud can also help you to make it easier for your employees to schedule shifts by checking rotas electronically.

      Making the switch

      For many restaurants, the first step is to migrate reservations and waiting lists to the cloud. Such a move can enable customers to check availability and book online or via their mobile, and it can be used to offer last-minute availability in the event of cancellations or unexpected lulls. It can also send automated reminders to help prevent the dreaded no-shows that blight many businesses’ balance sheets.

      In many cases, the IT manager can then make a strong case for moving more operations online, especially when it comes to data integration. That can deliver incredibly detailed insights into occupancy and even individual customers’ behaviour, can identify more efficient use of resources and can even lead to more aggressive booking windows by identifying just how long a table of X people will be occupied.

      Pause for thought

      There are negatives too, of course. Some cloud-based systems are cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all operations. Many use their own branding rather than yours. Some contracts don’t fix costs in a way you’ll find acceptable, or charge a commission that can easily spiral out of control. And some vendors operate on a model where they own the data, so if you decide to cut loose and go elsewhere you can’t take your valuable data with you.

      The biggest potential problem, though, is that your provider’s interests might not align with your own.

      For example, if a platform is building its own brand in the consumer space, there’s a risk of your business becoming a cog in somebody else’s machine – something we’ve already seen in online retail and online ticketing, where the platform providers ended up dominating entire markets.

      Making the switch

      The right solution doesn’t do that. The right solution keeps you in control: control of your costs, control of your brand and, most importantly of all, control of your data.

      Key points to remember:

      • Cloud-based solutions require minimal disruption and little initial investment
      • Make sure your provider’s interests are aligned with your own
      • Ownership is crucial, especially of the data your business generates
      • Data analysis can cut costs, improve efficiency and boost occupancy
      • The right solution gives you control of your costs, your brand and your data

      Find out more about Zonal’s range of cloud-based solutions including reservation systems, loyalty programmes and marketing campaign tools.

      Get in touch

      Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

        5 top tips on how to successfully manage party bookings at your restaurant

        Whether it’s a rehearsal dinner, hen do, or Christmas party, hosting a group booking at your restaurant, pub or bar is a chance to attract many first-time diners, giving you a valuable opportunity to make a lasting impression.

        It goes without saying, that group bookings are an extremely effective way to fill your venue and add significant additional revenue – if done right.

        We’ve pulled together five top tips on how to make it more memorable for your guests, whilst highlighting the best that your restaurant has to offer:

        Give your party bookers enquiry options 

        45% of consumers prefer to make their booking online – compared to 20% who prefer the telephone. So, ensure your party planning experience is consistent on both booking channels – give your event organisers the option to select a range of dates on your online booking widget – just as they would on the phone.

        It’s hard enough trying to get a group of people together, so why not make it easier for them by providing a range of date options if one particular date is not available.  It gives them the opportunity to enquire for another day and ensures you don’t miss out on large party revenue.

        Party packages and extras 

        With the shift towards customers seeking ‘experiences’ in the last 12 months, diners now want more than just a meal. So why not make it special and upsell party packages? Your guests get the benefit of your team’s wisdom, and you get to upsell extras such as a birthday cake or drink packages. Diners have a better experience and it gives you the opportunity to boost your profitability. It’s a win-win!

        Take pre-orders electronically ahead of the party 

        Organising menu options for a party of eight or more can be a huge hassle for the party planner and the venue. With guests unsure of what they ordered and kitchen staff having to accommodate a large number of orders all at once, the outcome can be a stressful and time-consuming situation for all concerned.

        A way to overcome this headache is to take pre-orders electronically ahead of when the party arrives. Zonal’s party booking and pre-order solution, liveRES Events and Pre-Order, allows customers to log in to a guest portal where they can view menus and pre-order their food and drink prior the booking. What’s more, they can also pre-pay for their meal, saving everyone time working out what their meal costed. This not only reduces the time hungry diners are waiting for their meal but also helps turn your tables quicker and reduces the pressure on the kitchen staff. Again, it’s a win -win for everyone.

        Manage deposits 

        Deposits are used to help reduce no-shows, especially for larger bookings where a no-show could be extremely damaging for your restaurant. With staff potentially  unsure about the amount of deposit that has been paid and not being able to automatically reduce the deposit amount from the bill at the end of the night, paying and managing deposits can be a painstakingly monotonous task for both the party guests and the venue staff.

        Our restaurant ordering system, Events & Pre-Order allows you to manage deposits electronically. You can send out deposit reminders and deadlines to guests allowing them to pay their share of the deposit, which is then automatically redeemed at the till, saving everyone the hassle of trying to remove the deposit amount off the final bill at the end of night.

        LaTouche Finale 

        A French term for the final touch, guests love it when there are little details and touches to make them feel special. With EPoS integration, you can connect customer spend and data giving you a detailed picture of each customer, so if they ordered a bottle of champagne the last time they visited, you could suggest it when they are in for another visit!

        Discover more about how Zonal’s smart group booking and pre-order solution, liveRES Events, can help improve operations in your hospitality business.

        Get in touch

        Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

          12 Questions to ask when evaluating reservation systems for your hospitality business

          What to consider when you’re evaluating a new online booking and table management solution – and the key questions your provider must answer.

          In one episode of the cartoon South Park, the Underpant Gnomes have a plan. Step 1: Collect underpants. Step 3: Profit! As for Step 2… well, there isn’t a Step 2.

          Some IT projects are a bit like that. You know that the right platform can deliver measurable improvements. You’ve got the budget you need and the green light to go ahead. Now what? It’s a good idea to make sure you have a Step 2.

          Making the case for change

          We know that the right IT solution will improve things. The key is to identify what those things are, and what improvements you expect to see. For example, you might want real-time table management linked to reservations so that you can accept last-minute bookings online, or via a central telephone team. Or you might want to monitor conversion rates from email marketing offers. Or you might want to analyse your EPoS data to gain a better understanding of customer behaviour and spend.

          This stage is crucial, because it defines the parameters your solution needs to work within. A system that analyses online bookings but not walk-ins isn’t much help if you have significant walk-in traffic. A system that’s built for a Windows PC in the reception area may not talk to mobile devices such as iPads. A system that doesn’t include purchasing and inventory management won’t identify potential savings in those areas. And an online system that doesn’t work on users’ mobiles is an online system doomed to failure.

          Conversely, you might not need to upgrade your entire organisation at once. Simply combining two technology solutions such as online reservations and EPoS might tick all the boxes at the moment, with future integration planned for the much longer term.

          This stage isn’t just important in terms of the project specification. It’s also important for overcoming potential obstacles to the project success. If key stakeholders in your organisation don’t understand the reasons for change and the benefits of change, they may prove difficult to convince – and that means they could make your project much more difficult to implement.

          How much change can you handle?

          No two organisations are the same. Some businesses spend months planning, testing and preparing for an IT roll-out. Others complete the entire process in weeks. That isn’t a reflection of their scale, either. Some of the largest, most complex businesses have the shortest roll-outs, while small, niche businesses sometimes need much more time.

          And different businesses have different requirements. For some, it’s a move to an entirely new system across the entire organisation. For others, it’s an ongoing process where systems are upgraded according to priority. You might integrate EPoS and reservations now for example, with other integrations coming later.

          In practice that means any solution provider offering a cookie-cutter, one size fits all solution should be pelted with bread rolls until they leave the building. As Abraham Maslow put it back in 1966, “it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” In other words, technology is simply a tool to improve your business. If the provider doesn’t understand your specific business requirements, their system is unlikely to meet those requirements either now or in the future.

          Twelve key questions to ask about any proposed solution

          In addition to the usual questions about hardware and software compatibility, scale, uptime guarantees and timescales, there are several key questions your potential solution provider should be able to answer.

          There’s a good chance that some or all of these questions are relevant to your particular circumstances, so take a moment to consider each area:

          1. Do you share the ownership of the data? If you part company, what happens to your stored data?
          2. Is there a per cover fee in addition to the monthly fee?
          3. Do the online components support mobile platforms such as iPhones and tablets and use responsive design to ensure they work on all kinds of devices?
          4. Can the system generate tailored, personalised customer communications?
          5. Can the table management system link to your EPoS system in order to reduce operational duplication?
          6. Can the system deal not just with online bookings but with walk-ins and wait lists?
          7. Can reservation data and EPoS data be combined to establish a clear picture of customer behaviour, preferences and spend?
          8. Does the online booking widget reflect real-time ability?
          9. Can the online booking widget take deposits and is this method PCI compliant?
          10. Does the system allow you to set up separate availability and menus for different day parts and days of the week?
          11. Is the solution completely customisable with your branding, or branded by the 3rd party provider and inflexible?
          12. How will your data be migrated from your existing systems?

          And finally… one key question to ask about the entire project

          How will all this improve your business and your offer to your customers? How could you handle discounting better, drive increased frequency, and improve guest experience? How could you capture and use data to understand and respond to customer behaviour more effectively?

          In short: what is your current state, where do you want to get to, and how can technology help you get there?

          Points to remember

          • Always start by identifying the business need, not the technological solution.
          • Set specific objectives. Improving X by 15% is clear and measurable. “Maximising efficiency” isn’t. Ensure your new platform provider is clear on your objectives, so they can help you achieve your goals.
          • Think long term. Will the platform work on mobile devices, both for customers and your business? Who owns the data? Can it scale if your growth increases dramatically?

          Any solution provider offering a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all solution should be pelted with bread rolls until they leave the building.

          Get in touch

          Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

            7 Sobering Stats on No-Shows in Pubs and Restaurants

            No-shows are a massive, unwelcome problem for pubs and restaurants. As one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, the financial impact of no-shows is one the industry can ill-afford right now. Once a few bookings fail to materialise, you are almost certainly now looking at a loss for the shift.

            One restaurateur explains how no-shows can decimate the bottom line:

            “…we don’t make any profit for the night. We only have 60-65 seats, so if 10-12 people don’t show up, the profit gets thrown out the window”

            Joel Best, Sydney Morning Herald

            The following figures show just how big the issue is, and how some restaurants and pubs are beginning to fight back.

            1 in 5 – The average no-show rate in big cities

            On average, 20% of diners fail to turn up for their reservations in big cities, according to an in-depth study on restaurant no-shows. This may be down to many factors, including the high level of competition and consumer choice, and a casual attitude towards booking commitments. Most shocking of all are anecdotal reports of people routinely booking multiple venues in advance to avoid disappointment, before making a last-minute decision on the night.

            £16 million – What no-shows are costing the UK restaurant industry

            A 2015 survey by a restaurant booking system put at £16bn the amount British restaurants are losing out on annually due to no-shows. As every manager knows, the pub or restaurant incurs costs whether the customer shows up or not, with staffing and overheads biting into the bottom line.

            15 minutes – time to wait before declaring a no-show

            So says the National Restaurant Association of America, which has published a brief guide to combatting no-shows. The organisation (sorry, organization) advises clear communication of your reservations policy, as well as dropping a courtesy call reminder to the customer the day before.They also recommend email confirmations, as a written reminder. These should be sent automatically to the customer as part of any online or tech-based restaurant booking system.

            42% of restaurants are taking pre-paid deposits

            In a recent poll of UK restaurants it was found that 42% were already taking and holding pre-paid deposits, to help insulate them against the cost of no-shows. Christmas Day and Mother’s Day are prime examples, but the operational challenges this tactic presents can’t be ignored.

            Even so, restaurants requiring credit card details for reservations has become relatively widespread at the higher end of the market, and casual dining restaurants and pubs are starting to consider the idea.

            1 in 3 venues feel guests are open to late cancellation charge

            The same survey asked pub and restaurant managers about late cancellation, less of a bugbear than no-shows but still a significant cause of loss. Allowing customers to have the flexibility to cancel their booking via SMS gives you the opportunity to resell the table to another customer. Table management systems such as liveRES facilitate this service from as little as 4p per text.

            32% of the business representatives agreed that ‘most guests would understand the need to hold a deposit or credit card details,’ to compensate the venue against late cancellation.

            £150 – Cancellation fee at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

            Cancelling on Gordon Ramsay might leave you spluttering The F-word. Unless diners give a full 48 hours’ notice they lose £100 when cancelling lunch, and a whopping £150 on dinner bookings.

            Another extreme example is the trend of naming, shaming and even banning customers who fail to turn up for bookings. Restaurants around the world, from Australia to America, have been known to resort to this tactic.

            While probably cathartic, this approach has the obvious effect of undermining customer goodwill. Instead, taking credit card details and implementing a reasonable late cancellation fee may be a better way to go.

            With liveRES, PCI compliant pre-payments can be taken during the book stage, whether it is £10 per head or a fixed amount if they do not cancel 24 hour ahead of the amount taken per booking is your choice.

            7 million – Value of prepaid tickets sold by pioneering restaurants

            A revolutionary solution to the restaurant no-show problem has been slowly making its way to the UK from across the pond – taking payment up-front. A number of restaurants in the USA and UK have started to redefine the dining out experience as a ticketed event – like a trip to the theatre or a sporting fixture. This means the customer loses their fee if they cancel, but the venue isn’t left out of pocket.

            The future?

            It’s yet to be seen whether similar no-show “fines” will catch on over here (our hunch is the UK dining public won’t have the stomach for such measures in the long run).

            But what is clear is that pubs and restaurants do need all the ideas and tools they can get to protect their investment in each service.

            What can you do about it? Key points and top tips to remember:

            1. Review or write a booking policy that customers agree to when booking. This can include how long you are willing to wait before declaring a no-show and any cancellation fees (to be determined by you) that apply if not enough notice is given
            2. If up to 1 in 5 diners fail to honour reservations, consider overbooking tables on key trading days/times
            3. Regular communication with the guest between booking and dining date will help to reduce no-shows: build a relationship with your guests, and give them the opportunity to cancel at any time, so your table can be re-booked by another customer
            4. Activate SMS and email confirmations and reminders in your restaurant booking system and send out reminders 48 hours before the booking date
            5. Consider taking deposits if relevant for your business – most reservation systems will enable this
            6. Restaurant ticketing is a more proactive trend, putting the onus on customers to book and prepay for their dining experience

            Discover more about how Zonal’s smart online booking and table management solution, liveRES, can help improve operations in your hospitality business.

            Get in touch

            Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

              6 ways your restaurant booking system can improve yield management

              Are your tables pulling their weight? Find out how a restaurant booking system can turbo-charge your tables, boost efficiency and get more covers.

              As a restaurant or pub manager, getting maximum table yield is a top priority, especially when opening hours and table sizes are strictly controlled. But as we all know, even the busiest restaurants sometimes end up with empty tables sitting around. Perhaps they’re no-shows, perhaps there was a cancellation, or perhaps one of the staff simply made a mistake. It’s just one of those things that can’t be helped. Or is it?

              Maybe it’s time to look again at how to get those tables out of down-time and earning their keep. Here are six tips and tricks you can employ with a restaurant booking system, to boost table yield and ultimately increase profitability.

              1) On busy days consider overbooking

              For most restaurant and pub managers, the idea of being overbooked sends chills down the spine. They envisage the nightmare scenario of angry customers demanding their seats, having all been promised the same table at the same time.

              But as every GM knows, there is always a certain proportion of bookings that become no-shows, leaving spots unfilled. The problem until now has been the unpredictability of this. But all that changes with data.

              A computerised restaurant booking system can help you predict the amount of dropouts based on previous periods. Armed with that knowledge, you can dare to overbook a little based on normal patterns, with the result that fewer tables are left empty.

              2) Use waiting lists effectively

              Another bugbear is keeping customers waiting. Instead of avoiding this at all costs, restaurants and pubs can manage waiting time to their advantage.

              If walk-in customers turn up on the door during busy times, staff are put on the spot. Often unable to say precisely how long the wait time will be – or if a table will definitely become available – they may lose the customers who decide to go elsewhere.

              But with a tech-based restaurant booking system, these calculations are at the tap of a finger. Your staff can give customers an accurate wait time, put them on a list and send them an automatic message via text or email when the table is free.

              3) Make reserved tables work harder

              We’ve all been there. We turn up at a pub or restaurant looking forward to a meal or a few drinks. We forgot to book, but that’s OK: there are plenty of free tables. Or are there?

              Regretfully the front-of-house tells us that the tables are all booked for the evening. Disappointed, we say our goodbyes and go in search of another spot. Meanwhile, those reserved tables sit there undisturbed until the booked guests arrive two hours later.

              No more! Fitting customers in and out is a tricky jigsaw puzzle, but the good news is that technology can do it for you. An intelligent restaurant booking system will release staff from being over-cautious.

              They will be able to see exactly what is or will be available and when, meaning fewer walk-ins turned away, less table down-time and more income for the restaurant.

              4) Stay live throughout sessions

              Many pubs and restaurants stop taking reservations in advance of a session. Again, the fear of getting overbooked is a constant worry. Then there’s the desire to leave some space for walk-ins, and the feeling you never quite know how long guests will take to finish their meal.

              But once again, technology is your friend. A restaurant booking system that integrates with EPoS (electronic point of sale) means restaurants and pubs can keep taking reservations 24/7.

              Being connected to the till also means that the system can accurately tell you your average turn times for each party size over a given period allowing you improve yield management.

              It means you and your staff will have an accurate, real-time view of availability. No more mental acrobatics, adjustments or conservative estimates. If the system shows a free table, it’s a free table, which is especially valuable when running a waitlist.

              5) Make sure you’re mobile-friendly

              Customers are increasingly likely to browse and book restaurants on a mobile. This on-the-go approach also means that you can expect more last-minute bookings.

              So, restaurants and pubs must be geared up for this audience with mobile-friendly websites that display menus in a user-friendly format. Time to ditch those PDF uploads in favour of proper mobile web pages. Social media marketing is also a great way for venues to attract consumers on their smartphones.

              Some restaurants may be concerned that diners can make bookings as they are stood on their doorstep leaving them no time to prepare. But the system can be setup to ensure there is a minimum window for advanced bookings (i.e. next available time is a minimum of one hour away) meaning they will never be in compromising positions by leaving availability open.

              6) Discount, but be smart about it.

              All restaurants and pubs are familiar with the problem of trying to get bookings during quiet times. Often, they turn to discounts and special offers, but how do you avoid cannibalising or making a loss in the process?

              One way is to set up special, time-limited offers that are only accessible to customers booking at certain times of the day or week.

              You can even limit the number of tables available on the promotion, giving you greater control over offers and discounts. Linking reservation management and marketing promotions in this way should be a feature of any good tech-based restaurant booking system.

              Key points to remember

              • Pubs and restaurants can boost their table yield by attacking downtime. A good restaurant booking system helps to fill tables that are waiting to be used, or left empty due to errors or dropouts
              • Overbooking intelligently is a good idea – using past data managers can predict the likely proportion of no-shows and adjust their capacity slightly to ensure maximum table use
              • Use waiting lists and contact data collection to give walk-ups accurate wait-times and send them a message when their table is ready
              • A real-time view of availability is key, particularly as last-minute and mobile bookings get more popular. A reservation system linked to point of sale means tables are released as soon as the bill is paid, increasing the likelihood of more bookings.

              Get in touch

              Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

                6 Ways to Reduce No-shows

                With the sector slowly getting back on its feet after full lockdown, the issue of no-shows has been rearing its ugly head again – with a vengeance, adding salt to an already gaping wound. Thankfully, the latest CGA research points to an improving no-show rate, with many operators insisting on pre-booking as a pre-requisite, or implementing a deposits scheme.

                But with the ‘R’ rate creeping up, local lockdowns becoming a regular occurrence across the country and hospitality operators still on the knife edge of survival, hospitality can ill-afford the financial impact of further no-shows.

                Zonal’s online bookings experts have put together a quick checklist to help you reduce no-shows and boost profitability in your venue during COVID times.

                1. Create an official booking policy

                You may have a range of policies floating around that you would like your customers to comply with when dining at your venue. Having a list of terms and conditions that people must agree to before making a reservation means that your customers must stick to them, giving you more control. Terms and conditions could include the following:

                • Every channel on which bookings can be made e.g. your website, by phone, on a third-party site
                • Whether reservations are necessary, or walk-ins are acceptable
                • How far in advance a table reservation should be made
                • How long you are willing to wait before declaring a no-show
                • A cancellation fee (to be determined by you) applies if not enough notice is given

                2. Build a relationship with your customers from the point of booking and give them plenty of opportunities to cancel

                Your confirmation email or inbound phone call is the start of a one-to-one relationship with your customers, and your opportunity to start building their loyalty and trust. Loyal customers are less likely to no-show, or at least warn you in advance by cancelling their booking, so consider, carefully the information you include in addition to the booking details to make the best first impression.

                Make it clear and easy for them to cancel if they no longer require the booking – in your email confirmation, SMS reminders and over the phone by a member of the team.

                As with no-shows, cancellations are unfortunately more likely at the present time, so by catching them early, you can give yourself the maximum opportunity to re-sell the table.

                3. Be clear about the COVID safety measures you have put in place

                Numerous studies over the past couple of months have cited COVID safety concerns as a major reason for not turning up for a reservation. Whilst the lack of cancellation is inexcusable, being absolutely clear in your booking communications, up front, about the Coronavirus safety measures you have put in place will put customers’ minds at ease and manage their expectations well in advance. What will they be expected to do from the moment they arrive? Where will they be sitting? What about toilet facilities? Show them what to expect by sending them links to photos, or better still, a video tour of your venue.

                4. Send out SMS and email reminders

                After a reservation is made, sending an automated confirmation email or text message can be extremely effective, as diners with smartphones can add these into their calendars, often reminding them of their pre-booking. Using an intelligent table reservations system such as Zonal’s, gives customers the flexibility to cancel their reservation via SMS allowing venues to free up their tables to be resold. With the average open rate for SMS being 82%, sending reminders 48 hours before a reservation can have a huge impact on minimising no-shows for those who are forgetful, who want to make amendments to their booking, are poorly or self-isolating, or are just not feeling confident about their safety in a public place.

                5. Run a waitlist for queuing diners to fill no-show table bookings

                With the reduced number of covers available in most venues due to social distancing regulations, turning diners waiting for a table away because you’re fully booked only for your pre-booked tables to no-show is a real kick in the teeth. A smart table management system such as Zonal’s, will help to prevent this by enabling you to run and manage a waitlist. With precise wait time, combined with your policy for cut-off times for no-shows, you could be filling your no-show tables in no time!

                6. Consider taking deposits – but only if relevant for your business

                Deposit schemes divide opinion across the industry and are certainly not relevant to all hospitality businesses. However, with reduced seating capacities due to social distancing guidelines, a deposit scheme may be essential for the continued viability of some businesses. Reservation cancellation fees are nothing new and can persuade customers to take their reservation more seriously. Many restaurants have already implemented this ranging from a £5 deposit to £25.

                Pre-paid deposits can be redeemed at the time of paying the bill, so bookers are more willing to show up for their reservations and could end up spending more because they’ve already got what seems like money off.

                Make sure your booking system is PCI (payment card industry) compliant, so your customers’ data is always processed correctly and securely.

                Find out how Zonal’s reservation system can help with no-shows:

                Get in touch

                Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

                  Butcher & Catch hooks up with Zonal

                  Introducing Butcher & Catch

                  An independent restaurant based in Sheffield

                  Founded in 2017 by business partners, Liam Ridge and Adam Pearce

                  Born from a desire to create a space where the experience is just as important as the food

                  Provenance, quality and sustainability are the values that underpin the business

                  “Our restaurant is not located on a highly trafficked road, it’s a destination restaurant, so immediacy and live availability to a reservations diary was key.”
                  Adam Ridge, Co-owner and Founder, Butcher & Catch

                  The business challenge

                  Butcher & Catch knew that the ability to manage and control the volume and flow of bookings was vital for a successful launch and wanted to avoid any potential negative customer experiences due to overbooking.

                  The restaurant is not located on a highly trafficked road

                  This is a calendar icon

                  Live availability within a reservations diary was vital

                  Wanted full control of over volume and flow of bookings

                  Risk of overbooking on launch

                  The solution

                  Choosing Zonal’s all-in-one online booking and table management system, liveRES Tables, meant they could open with confidence, knowing that they had full control over volume and flow of bookings. They were also able to protect the business from any potential negative customer experiences due to overbooking, which in turn led to a totally successful launch.

                  • An all-in-one online booking and table management system – liveRES Tables
                  • A seamless, mobile-friendly reservations system that allows customers to book with confidence
                  • A user-friendly system which means staff training is quick and painless

                  “Using liveRES Tables meant we could open with confidence, knowing that we had full control over volume and flow of bookings. We could protect ourselves from any potential negative customer experiences due to overbooking, which in turn led to a totally successful launch.”
                  Adam Pearce, Co-owner and Founder, Butcher & Catch


                  Butcher & Catch now have greater table visibility and EPoS integration means that moving tables and juggling customers and tabs in-session is fast and simple.  By managing available booking times, they can fit in extra sittings, and therefore increase yield and revenue.

                  Control of volume and flow of bookings
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                  100% visibility of in-session diners and table availability
                  Insight into trends and busy times to strategically plan available slots
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                  Increased profits thanks to improved yield
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                  A stress-free, successful launch

                  Featured solutions

                  Get in touch

                  Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

                    5 top strategies to increase customer loyalty

                    Every business wants to attract new customers, but not every business realises the importance of customer retention. Loyal customers not only provide a regular stream of revenue, but they generally out-spend new customers and often become vocal brand ambassadors.

                    So how can you increase revenue by improving the loyalty of your existing customer base? Here are 5 top strategies to help:

                    1) Deliver an exceptional customer experience

                    You could invest a lot of money in advertising, social media, and SEO, and people could still visit your restaurant once, never to return.

                    Before diners visit your venue, they’ll most likely have already formed expectations based on reviews or the information on your website. A consistent customer journey increases satisfaction, builds trust and boosts loyalty. Seemingly simple things like calling customers by their first name and taking notes of their preferences can make all the difference.

                    Another way to improve customer experience is to have an online booking system that shows real-time availability, regardless of booking size, ensuring your business can meet the expectations of customers, 24/7.

                    2) Supporting your community, special events

                    Customers love it when businesses care about the community. You don’t have to be part of a large franchise with a budget of millions in order to look at ways to give back to the local community. Taking part in local events, supporting a local cause or giving your space up for an event can help you build a stronger local network and customer base and it doesn’t take much to get started.

                    Special events are also a great way to encourage guests to re-visit. With the shift towards experiences, events such as trivia quizzes or bingo nights, to name a few, are making a come back!.

                    It helps you build a positive reputation for the business, makes you known within the community and helps form useful connections within your local area.

                    3) Connect with customers through social media

                    It goes without saying that social media is a great way to highlight your venue and interact with your customer base. By highlighting offers, sharing customer-generated content and responding to comments, social media can help you build an engaged following. Engaging with your customers via social media by running competitions, giving shout-outs or sharing and retweeting their photos and posts can make them feel special and boost customer loyalty.

                    4) Develop a distinctive loyalty programme

                    According to GO Technology a third (34%) of consumers say they would like to see schemes that track and reward their loyalty, and 33% want to receive promotions and deals.

                    It may seem obvious, but many restaurants still do not have loyalty programmes in place. It’s basic psychology: people are more likely to visit again if they get free stuff.

                    An effective loyalty programme can drive acquisition, retention and engagement post-visit if done well. With so many generic loyalty schemes out there how do you build a successful loyalty programme that’s right for your business?

                    Make sure your loyalty programme stands out and doesn’t just give the customer points every time they come in for a meal, or a discount when dining at a later date – everyone does that. Try offering membership levels or create offers for kids. Tailor the programme to fit your unique business and customer base and make it really stand out.

                    5) Use technology to make it personal

                    When it comes to loyalty schemes, Tesco’s Clubcard scheme is probably the oldest and well-known. However, you don’t need millions of pounds to run a programme that delights your customers the same way that Tesco’s does. By integrating your till with your other tech systems, you can build a valuable customer database  that can be used to create your loyalty scheme and incentivise customers to revisit with personalised rewards which in turn boosts your profitability.

                    The integration allows you to capture and analyse valuable customer data with every transaction including what they’ve ordered, how much it cost, and how frequently they have visited. This data can help you create an effective and personalised loyalty programme suited to your customer database.

                    With so many loyalty programmes out there, knowing what loyalty programme to implement that’s right for your business isn’t always easy. For expert advice on building a successful loyalty scheme, download our guide on how to choose a high-performing loyalty programme for your hospitality venue.

                    Discover how Zonal’s fully EPoS-integrated Loyalty solution, available exclusively to Zonal EPoS customers, can help you build a loyal customer base and increase revenue. Read more

                    Get in touch

                    Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.