The hospitality industry continues to live through challenging times. After 17 weeks of being able to trade again following lockdown, restaurants, pubs and bars in England were ordered to close their doors to customers dining and drinking-in from 5 November to 2 December.
The move, one of several measures designed to help reduce the spread of Covid-19, puts unwanted pressure on operators during a period when they would expect to see trade increase. And despite an extension of the furlough scheme and being able to source income from takeaway and delivery, revenues will inevitably suffer.
Despite this gloomy backdrop, it is worth remembering that these restrictions will not be in place forever. The hospitality industry has proved it can operate in a Covid-secure way, customers have demonstrated an appetite for eating out and the news that a Covid-19 vaccine is close to being rolled-out are all positive signs that life (and trade) will return to normal at some point in 2021.
Forward-thinking hospitality operators will be using this time to prepare for re-opening and looking at ways to maximise revenue when they are able to welcome guests through their doors again.
If you fall into this category, then you may well be looking for ways to make your come back as smooth and effective as possible.
Investing in technology is one way to do this, and here, we make a few suggestions on how using the right software can support hospitality's return to normal.
Use it to drive footfall
As soon as hospitality is given the green-light to re-open, you'll want your restaurant, pub or bar to be as full as restrictions allow. Installing a comprehensive reservation and booking system that can manage every aspect of reservations and enquiry management will maximise the chances of this happening from day one.
A system that enables enquiries (and you can guarantee that customers will be making them through lockdown) made via telephone, email, or online, to be managed in one place makes the business more efficient and responsive. Access Collins tracks all enquiries and enables restaurant, pub and bar managers to respond quickly so they can be converted into bookings.
Not all customers will have questions, so make it simple for those looking to book by installing a reservations widget on your website, that crucially links through to your booking system.
Use it to aid planning
As bookings come in, use technology to help manage them quickly and efficiently. An integrated system like Access Collins with table management software allows your team to optimise their venue's space and efficiency.
Social distancing measures mean that the number of people who can dine at any one time in a restaurant will be less than previously, so knowing that all available tables are booked up in advance of a service is vital for anyone wanting to see maximum returns
Knowing how many people will be coming through the doors also allows operators to plan staffing and stock levels ahead of a service to ensure that the business can supply its forecasted demand, and in turn ensure its customers are happy with their experience.
While having a clear idea of how many people are planning to descend on your restaurant, pub, or bar helps planning, knowing what they plan to eat when there will aid kitchen preparations further.
Encouraging guests to pre-order at the point of booking will help the kitchen prepare, but it also gives operators the chance to up-sell to their guests before they even make their way through the door.
Offering customers the chance to pre-order from a set-menu online, especially if they can see choices in advance, may entice them to go for a starter AND dessert alongside a main. They may not do so if ordering on the night.
Let it handle the admin
From ordering stock, to managing the staff rota, there are so many administrative tasks involved in running a restaurant, pub or bar that can take managers off the floor and away from their staff and customers.
Technology can help lighten the load in many areas and take on some of those time-sapping tasks to make the business more efficient and ensure managers are watching what's going on front-of-house, rather than being stuck behind a desk.
Access offers a whole range of software, including Procure Wizard, People for Hospitality and EPoS that can handle the admin and, crucially, seamlessly integrate into Access Collins to ensure greater efficiency across the whole business.
Cut back on no-shows
No-shows – people booking tables and then not turning up – are a perennial problem for hospitality, so they need to be tackled head-on during difficult times if operators are to maximise revenue.
An integrated bookings system with the ability to send reminders to customers of their forthcoming booking could help solve the problem. This is particularly useful when capacity is reduced.
Good friendly communications are an integral part of the engagement process and will help with that ‘buy-in' to your business before someone dines with you.
Sending cheerful reminder texts to customers, where they simply reply YES or NO to confirm their booking, is a friendly way of engaging with bookers and reminds them that a) they have made the booking and b) you're expecting them to turn up.
For operators looking for another way to eliminate the problem, especially with large groups, considering adding a pre-payment option at the point of booking.
Get in touch here, to find out more about Access Collins, the UK's leading booking, enquiry management and footfall driving system, and the benefits it can bring to you.