Top five things to consider when choosing an EPoS system

This is a Zonal EPoS system
A robust EPoS is fast becoming fundamental to any hospitality business today. Ensuring that you have the right access to the right technology is essential for delivering great service to customers and can offer operational advantages too. So, what do you need to consider when you’re looking for a new EPoS for your business?

  1. A custom choice

For most businesses a ‘one size fits all’ solution may not be suitable – a custom EPoS is much easier to integrate with your existing systems and optimise your investment. When searching for a new EPoS, make sure that you have a good idea of what is likely to be the best fit in terms of the existing infrastructure you already have in place. Here at Zonal, we tailor our system around your unique requirements, maximising efficiency with the systems you already have in place.

  1. Ease of use

A sign of a great EPoS system is one where all staff can be trained and start using it in no time. An interface that is intuitive is therefore a must, and the ability to use touchscreen technology also helps. Personalisation is key, with the ability to plan menus, make seasonal changes and special events, ensuring every site has the correct items at the right time. As well as ensuring that staff are comfortable with the day-to-day use of the EPoS system, check how easy it is to update the software. Ideally, team members should be able to quickly install updates without the need to contact the EPoS system vendor.

  1. Customer experience

An EPoS has a lot to contribute to customer experience, as it will enable you to give customers choice when it comes to payment methods. If they can’t pay the way they want to, then they will simply choose to go elsewhere to spend their money. Integrated payment systems connect to your EPoS, allowing you to send the amount be paid directly to the machine without manual entry. Payment processes are simplified, quicker and more efficient enabling you to turn tables faster, streamline processes and reduce operating costs.

  1. Make your staff more mobile and effective

Along with mobile payments, handheld ordering delivers a cost effective, reliable replacement to the traditional order pad. You can instantly create a handheld EPoS terminal, providing an intuitive user experience, with team members taking orders from anywhere in your venue. Staff visits to the bar and kitchen are reduced, leaving more time to focus on providing great customer service.

  1. Ongoing Support

When you’re considering a new EPoS system, ongoing support is essential. Many off-the-shelf options today don’t include this as standard and, once the system is up and running, you’re on your own. At Zonal, we know that hospitality isn’t just 9-5. Our Edinburgh based technical support centre is open 365 days a year, from 8am to midnight.

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5 top strategies to increase customer loyalty

Every business wants to attract new customers, but not every business realises the importance of customer retention. Research shows that it takes seven new customers to equal the value of one loyal customer. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Black Ivy hotel transforms guest experience with integrated technology solution

Black Ivy is a stylish neighbourhood bar and boutique hotel, located in the leafy Edinburgh suburb of Bruntsfield.

Having undergone a significant investment by Caledonia Inns two years ago, Revenue Manager, John Mustard also wanted to upgrade Black Ivy’s outdated technology to support the hotel’s focus on delivering exceptional customer service.

Zonal was the only solution to go for according to John.  Having worked with Zonal throughout his 30 year hospitality career, John had never found a technology partner that could match the range of solutions offered by Zonal and the 24/7 support service.

“I have worked with other technology providers over the years, but Zonal always stands out for its intuitive, smart design and reliability.  Zonal spent 40 years perfecting the technology, which always keeps up to speed with advancements, so you know it’s going to work, be relevant and not let you down.  Also, the support is excellent; the help desk is quick to respond any time, even at weekends,” says John.

Following its refurbishment, Black Ivy has fast become popular with locals, as well as with visitors to Edinburgh.  The hotel boasts 22 uniquely designed bedrooms and two busy bars and a popular food offer, dishing up classics with a twist, averaging 1,000 covers a week.

The Drafthouse, specialises in offering a range of lagers, craft creations and guest taps on rotation and is renowned for its Tank Beer.  Also featuring a stage area, regular live entertainment is a big hit.  Outside, there is a 60-seater al fresco Terrace, which overlooks Bruntsfield Links Park.  Featuring fire pits, customers enjoy a campfire vibe outside and with two full-size table tennis tables inside, the venue is a great place to mix business with pleasure.

For John and his Black Ivy team, Zonal technology has made managing all the different elements of the business seamless.  Zonal’s EPoS system connects with the hotel’s property management system (PMS), Rezlynx, so residential guests can bill any drinks and food directly to their room tab.

John explains: “For us this is a big plus of Zonal; its technology is incredibly flexible so can integrate with other technology solutions that we may have, such as Rezlynx.  This means that our Zonal EPoS is the single reporting vehicle for our accounts team, giving them real-time data that allows us to keep a handle on sales and overheads.”

But it’s not just about operations, the customer journey is also key to Black Ivy’s success.  Zonal’s kitchen management system, Kitchen iQ, has been a game changer along with iServe, a handheld electronic order pad that offers access to EPoS functionality on an iPod or iPad from anywhere in the venue.

John adds: “With two bars, including our popular Terrace, switching to iServe has been a winner for our team.  They no longer have to run back and forth to the bar to process orders, giving them more time to focus on our customers.  Food orders are also fed directly into Aztec and sent through to the kitchen, again saving time and the risk of mistakes.

“Our chefs really liked Kitchen iQ as the system makes their lives easier and less stressful.  Now if you ask them would they go back to paper, the answer is a resounding no!”

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Inspiration for success at the Hotel, Restaurant and Catering Show – 3 – 5 March 2020

HRC (Hotel, Restaurant and Catering Show) is the UK’s largest and most prestigious event for the hospitality and food service industry, held at the Excel London. Formerly known as Hotelelympia, the show takes place over three days and is split into four shows offering food service and hospitality professionals the chance to source new products and business solutions to drive their business forward.

On stand H114, we will be showcasing our full range of connected technology solutions including our new events and pre order solution for you to test drive. The Zonal team will be on hand to provide you with a one to one personalised demo, answer any of your underlying questions, and discuss exactly how our solutions can help benefit your business.

Whether you’re a new restaurant, a multi-site hotel operator or just looking to explore what Zonal has to offer, be sure to pop by the Zonal stand. If you’re already working with us and planning to attend and would like to book a meeting with your account manager, do let us know.

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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 Events & Pre-Order solution 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!

Party bookings can give you big returns if done right. Why not take our short checklist to help identify how well your existing set-up can cope with large parties bookings. Take checklist

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The rise of the experiential venue

From Boxpark to Flight Club, the UK’s hospitality scene is taking quirkiness to the next level. Evenings at indoor golf courses, having a drink in ball pit nightclubs to dining in an igloo on the River Thames, crowds have been flocking to take part in these experiences. But what has caused this shift in behaviour and how can hospitality operators take advantage?

With diners wanting more than just a meal, the desire to seek fulfilling experiences is at the forefront of their minds. Experiential venues don’t just create memories, they capture our imagination. It’s no longer considered enough for food service providers to simply provide food, whatever the price point.

Of course, the idea of partaking in an experience when dining out has been around for a long time with the Secret Cinema leading the charge in 2007, but in recent years with a behavioural shift, diners are now more willing to spend their precious pounds on experiences. With Londoners now eating out more than once a week on average, up by around a third on last year, standards are higher than ever.

One of the major drivers is the want to share. Thanks to social media, individuals can be editors of their own lives. Experiential highlights are shared through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, and although it may seem tedious for some, for savvy operators these are great word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.

There is however one demographic that is leading the charge when it comes to demanding more experiential bang for their buck: millennials. According to research conducted by Mintel, millennials are less likely to drink than their elders, with 22% of respondents believing that bars should offer some kind of activity. In addition, 53% of millennials believe that ‘a new experience’ is an important feature when choosing a place to eat. Also, as 18 to 24 year olds seek interactive experiences on a night out, augmented reality (AR) could become more popular in venues as 25% believe AR in menus and ordering could enhance their visit. Find out more here.

With the rise of stay-at-home dining options seeing a meteoric rise, creating an in-venue experience – however large or small it may be – can increase footfall, dwell time and ultimately spend. As a result of the digital age, the need for social interaction has also been more pressing. With consumers becoming more socially isolated, the importance of experience gives them that human interaction they may be missing.

Whether you work in a busy pub, restaurant or hotel, or are based in head office, why not take some time out in January to take in an experience! Here are some Zonal customers we think you’ll enjoy:

  1. BoxPark– Boxpark is the world’s first pop up mall, fusing the modern street food market, with local and global brands to create a unique shopping and dining experience. Now located across three sites, Shoreditch, Croydon and Wembley, Boxpark is packed with incredible places to eat and drink as well as an array of events spaces where you’ll find everything from concerts to sports screenings.
  2. Flight Club – Founded in 2012, Flight Club combines the warmth of traditional British pubs with the high energy of social darts. With a twist of technology, each darts board sits under the gaze of three cameras, which identify the location of each dart thrown. In addition, attendees can relive their memories, share the wins and losses through their ‘flight club stories’ which emailed to the attendees the day after booking. Offering a ‘brunch social’ package and extensive food and drink menu, guests are definitely not left hungry, with the Flight Club family always on hand to keep the pizza and prosecco flowing!
  3. Electric Shuffle – Founded by the team behind Flight Club, Electric Shuffle has revolutionised the much-loved past time of the traditional game of shuffleboard. With ten lanes across two floors, each table comes with a unique touch screen, a call for table service button and team photos functionality. Of course, there is an opportunity to recharge too with an incredible menu of sharing plates, pizzas and colourful cocktails.
  4. The Bat and Ball – Spread across two floors, the Bat and Ball is Westfield’s largest and liveliest bar. A table tennis temple, the bar is home to 10 champion sized ping pong tables and is available to book for just a game or a larger group event. For those looking to liven up the night, players can also try beer pong, or prosecco pong and even rent the private UV booth for karaoke. Complimented by an extensive food and drink menu, get the perfect ping pong partnership with food at the table. In addition, The Bat and Ball offers an array of social events including Sunday socials, Happy hour and live stream sports across the venue.
  5. TopGolf – And finally the global sports phenomenon that is TopGolf. With three locations across the UK, Topgolf is a game that anyone can play and win. A similar concept to a traditional golf driving range, players can score points by hitting microchipped balls at a giant dartboard target on an outfield, the closer to the bullseye the more points earned. The fun doesn’t stop there, players are assigned a bay, and can order food and drinks, so there is no need to interrupt the game.

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Beat the January blues with Click and Collect

Have you explored how Click and Collect could help you beat the January blues and instead grow your business?

January can be a notoriously quiet month for operators, as dropping temperatures, dreary weather and drained bank accounts leave customers wanting to stay indoors hibernating. But with delivery services such as Deliveroo and UberEats seeing record-breaking growth figures year-on-year and online ordering services such as Click and Collect now used by almost a quarter of all consumers, January needn’t be the most depressing trading month of the year.

EPoS-integrated online ordering solutions such as Zonal’s Click and Collect could open up a brand-new revenue stream for your business this January, by enabling customers feeling the January blues to place and order food to collect at their own convenience – to eat at home. Everyone is a winner!

According to GO Technology 22% of consumers have used Click and Collect in the last six months and spend an average of £113.99 on eating and drinking out a month.

Here are some of the many ways your venue can benefit from Click and Collect:

  • A superior customer experience

Click and Collect enables customers to seamlessly place and pay for an order online, specifying the exact day and time they want to retrieve their order. As a service that has been common practice in the retail sector for many years, customers expect the convenience and flexibility that Click and Collect offers for their lifestyles.

  • Upselling opportunities

Click and Collect allows you to upsell products, packages and high margin items driving increased revenue. And according to GO Technology, Click and Collect users are big spenders: more than two thirds (71%) of users eat out weekly, with an average spend of £28.23 – more than those who have never used the service.

  • A new revenue stream

Your richest source of loyal customers is often those on your doorstep. According to GO Technology, customers are willing to travel for up to 9 minutes to pick up an order. Making it easy for your customers to enjoy your food without having to make themselves presentable enough to dine in – especially in the depths of winter – enables you pick up incremental revenue that would have otherwise been missed.

  • Expand your operations

Your venue may be limited for space but that doesn’t mean you have to limit the number of orders you accept. Click and Collect enables you to put more orders through your kitchen, without eroding profit margins, helping you grow your customer base and ultimately your top-line revenue.

  • Improve operational efficiency

Customers using self-service online channels to order and pay for food and drink streamlines the order process for you, allowing you to focus on product quality and customer service. Zonal’s Click and Collect solution is fully integrated with your EPoS, so no rekeying of orders is required, and orders are only sent to the kitchen when preparation of the food is needed, significantly reducing pressure on the kitchen team.

  • No commission to pay

Zonal’s Click and Collect online ordering solution is available for a flat monthly fee, so you’ll never be faced with nasty unexpected commission bills at the end of the month.

Find out how early adopters, Pizza Express have been capitalising on Click and Collect and how it triggered a 5% upturn in sales with our Click and Collect webinar.

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Using menu engineering to enhance profitability

Guest Blog from Sales Manager, Clive Keywood, Comtrex Systems.


An effective menu is one of the best tools that any restaurant has when it comes to engaging customers and enhancing profitability.  For example, the right menu layout and design can increase profit by up to 5%. Creating a menu that will optimise your business’ potential for profit isn’t a question of guesswork – it requires the insight and knowledge that only menu engineering can add to the process.


What is Menu Engineering?

Essentially, it’s a process of evaluating menu pricing – both today and in the future – and using insights drawn from data about your business to create the right design and content. It can be effective in terms of helping to steer customers towards the decisions that you want them to make about your menu and helping to ensure that the menu items that generate the most profit for your business get picked. It’s a tool that can benefit every restaurant, no matter what your cuisine or target audience.


Using Menu Engineering Effectively

How often do you want to change your menu? Menus change frequently for many businesses and it’s essential to use the tools of menu engineering each time you update a menu if you want them to be effective. So, the first step is to be honest about how often you’ll have time to go through the process e.g. once or twice a year.

What’s the food cost for every item on the menu? It’s key to start with this data. You can work it out by adding the cost of each ingredient to the purchasing cost and dividing this by the number of portions it will make.

How profitable is each dish? You can calculate this by taking the food cost from the sales price. Another key metric that can be useful is food cost percentage (which will show you if dishes are correctly priced) – this is worked out by dividing food cost by menu price e.g. a £5 dish with a food cost of £1 will have a food cost percentage of 20%.

How popular is each dish? This is often easiest represented on a menu engineering matrix with one axis showing the number of times the dish was sold within a timeframe and the other its contribution margin (the difference between the selling price and the item cost).

What do your customers think? Often, the most effective way to evaluate menu performance is to ask those who are using it – what do they order, do they like the menu, what else drives them to the restaurant and what changes would they suggest?


Creating a New Menu

Using the data you now have you can engineer your menu to make it more effective, for example:

Using visual clues and highlighting colours to direct customers towards the dishes you know are the most profitable for you based on food cost, profit per dish etc.

Improve your descriptions – descriptive menu items are chosen 27% more than those that don’t include much information. Apply the most detail to the dishes you want to sell more of.

Consider two portion sizes. Depending on the costs of each dish it can advantageous to offer a smaller size dish, as customers often assume this is better value but may actually be more profitable for you.

Use the ‘golden triangle.’ When reading a menu we generally look at the centre first then our eyes move to the right and then the left. Bear this in mind in terms of where you place the items you most want customers to focus on

Once you’ve taken the time to engineer your menu it’s essential to track the progress to see whether your assessments have been correct. This will help you to evolve the process of menu engineering for greater profitability over time.

Find more about our menu management system.

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Sports arenas and stadiums need to tech-up!

Sports arenas and stadiums are in an enviable position – week in week out, hundreds and thousands of people gather to cheer on their favourite team or go to a big event.  This captive audience want to make an occasion of it and having a drink and bite to eat is all part and parcel of the experience.

But they don’t want to wait. Recent research conducted by CGA, on behalf of brand design agency Harrison, has revealed that lengthy queues are still a major frustration (38%), with more than two-fifths of customers being dissatisfied with the premium price of food and drink.

This is supported by Zonal’s GO Technology tech tracker that reveals almost half (47%) of the 5,000 UK adults polled still cite speed of service as their biggest frustration when eating and drinking out.  And this is only heightened when you don’t want to miss that all important goal or performance.

Today’s consumers hate to wait and expect to be able to use technology to speed up payment.  Their smartphone has become their order pad and wallet, with 36% (source: Zonal’s GO Technology) of consumers keen to use their mobile device to pre-order and pay for food and drink so they can move on quickly.

With high street brands now embracing such technology, consumers’ expectations for speedy and quality service is only set to rise further.  In the past 12 months, pre-order and pay apps have become mainstream on the high street, yet stadia are languishing in the relegation zone.

It’s not entirely fair to tar everyone with the same brush but overall it does seem like an own goal that is so easy to rectify.

Zonal has been working with a number of stadia including Newcastle United, Trent Bridge and Ageas Bowl, to introduce hospitality-dedicated tech, to deliver a premier experience across multiple outlets within a large venue.  By investing in connected EPoS and supporting technology applications, such as cashless transactions to ordering channels, and from pricing to visibility of stock, these stadiums have improved the speed of service, so more people can be dealt with by the same number of staff in less time.

“The Zonal team is extremely knowledgeable and is able to serve up solutions that meet our very specific needs.  They are always on hand to offer support and are very much part of our team”

Claire Appleby, Commercial Manager, Newcastle United

Most stadiums have embraced the benefits of offering payment solutions that support contactless, in order to drive large volume sales in a short period of time. In today’s connected world, it’s what customers expect, as they wish to ‘wave and pay’ or ‘tap and go’ by using cards or smartphones.  This is supported by figures from UK Finance who last year reported contactless payment card transactions almost doubled to 5.6bn, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of people using contactless and around 3.4m people almost never handling cash.

However, by investing in integrated EPoS technology, such as Zonal, it’s the live data that is proving so helpful in supporting the customer experience.  A great example is Newcastle United FC, which attracts an average weekly gate of 42,000 people, plus hosts other high crowd-pulling events, where Zonal’s EPoS has revolutionised the service they offer fans and corporate guests.  By having access to live data, the hospitality team can respond to specific needs as they arise in the ground, by moving staff around to peak areas and shifting stock items, such as hot dogs, if they’re proving more popular on a particular station.

The reality is, that to avoid an own goal, stadia need to respond to this shift, and respond quickly. For those venues that have already made the change, feedback speaks volumes, with improved customer satisfaction levels and increased sales.

Also, through technology integration, stadiums can connect other platforms such as loyalty programmes giving them powerful insight into customer data, enabling them to operate tailored programmes around preferences, frequency of visits and products purchased.

There is no doubt that if stadia want to be top of the league, they need to invest in the technology that is now so familiar to consumers to not only create memorable experiences but also boost the bottom line through sales and bespoke rewards.  By connecting technology with an improved customer experience, there is no doubt that they will be on to a winner!

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How prepared are you to reduce no-shows during the festive period?

On average, one in five diners fail to turn up for their reservations in big cities, with costs estimated to be around £16 billion a year to the pub and restaurant sector. What’s interesting to note, however, is that it is repeatedly reported that many consumers are not aware of the consequences of not showing up for a pre-booked table, and secondly have not considered it would be polite to notify the restaurant if they are unable to make the reservation.

But why are consumers failing or reluctant to cancel their table booking?

Recent research found the following:

  • 45% don’t cancel because finding cancellation information is difficult.
  • 27% don’t cancel because they can’t be bothered.
  • 18% don’t cancel because they have forgotten about their reservation.
  • 9% don’t cancel because they book multiple restaurants and decide to commit to a restaurant closer the time.

This is a huge problem in the hospitality industry and can have a huge and sometimes disastrous impact on your business as cited by Restaurant Mark Greenway last year on Big Hospitality online. 

Firstly, there is disappointment that the table has gone to waste when another customer may have been turned away due to table availability, resulting in you losing profit. Next, is the cumulative cost of potential overstaffing to the number of bookings and the food that has been prepared that has been ordered and prepared.

If no-shows are a re-occurring problem for your hospitality venue and you’re worried about the impact it will have this festive period, don’t panic! Here are four useful tactics that could help reduce your no-shows and boost profitability within your venue this festive period.

1. Do you have an official booking policy?

You may have a range of policies floating around that you would like your diners to comply with when dining at your venue. But you might not realise that you can set up an official festive booking policy for table reservations that lay out the terms and conditions of booking at your venue – specifically around Christmas and New Year. This 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 over your table bookings. These terms and conditions could include the following:

  1. All the different channels on which bookings can be made e.g. through your booking widget on your website or your telephone booking system.
  2. Whether reservations are necessary, or walk-ins are acceptable.
  3. How far in advance a table reservation should be made.
  4. How long you are willing to wait before declaring a no-show (15 minutes is acceptable according to The National Restaurant Association of America).
  5. A cancellation fee (to be determined by you) applies if not enough notice is given

2. Do you take deposits for reservations?

In a recent study of UK restaurants, 42% were reported to be already taking or holding deposits as part of their booking policy to help tackle no-shows – in particular during Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day. And according to GO Technology, a quarter of consumers would like to be able to access online bookings with deposits.

Consider taking pre-paid deposits that can be redeemed at the time of paying the bill. This way, festive 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.

Tip: Make sure your booking system is PCI (payment card industry) compliant, so your customers’ data is always processed correctly and securely. liveRES already ensures this!

3. Do you send out SMS reminders and emails?

After a reservation is made, sending an automated confirmation email or text can go a long way, 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 liveRES, 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 or want to make amendments to their booking.


4. Do you run waitlists for queuing diners to fill no-show table bookings?

There’s nothing worse than turning away diners waiting for a table because you’re fully booked, only for your pre-booked tables to no-show. This causes lost revenue, empty tables and unhappy customers, when those tables could have been occupied by your walk-ins. That’s why having the right table management solution such as liveRES for running a waitlist, with precise wait times for queuing customers could help reduce that lost revenue. Combined with your policy for cut-off times for no-shows, you could be filling your no-show tables in no time!

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