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You’re in the restaurant trade, so your business lives or dies on the amount of bookings you get.

But how do you boost your bookings? How do you get more customers through your door, sitting at your tables and paying for your food?

Well, in the digital age you need look no further than the online booking app. Gone are the days when customers had to rely on the phone to make a booking with you. Now they can do it all through their computer or smartphone.

Which is great news for you, as it makes booking infinitely easier. A few clicks and a bit of typing and, hey presto, booking made and confirmation emails sent.

But online booking apps offer a host of other benefits to you, some you may not even have thought of. Here’s our top four:

Keep in contact with your customers

When people book online they supply you with something very valuable – their email address. This allows you to build a database of people who have eaten in your restaurant and – if you’re good at what you do – like your food. This is incredibly powerful, as it allows you to send out marketing emails to all your existing customers. This could be to promote a special offer, publicise a new menu, announce a chef appointment, or wish them season’s greetings. The possibilities are endless and each time you send an email you remind your customers of your brand and your food.

Make money even when you’re shut

Even with lights out and blinds drawn, you can still be making money – as an online booking app is operational 24/7. So, while you relax or sleep, your digital booking partner is pulling in the customers and setting you up for a busy service.

Get on with what you’re good at

If you take a lot of phone bookings, then you know how time-consuming it can be – not only must you have a conversation, but you then have to record the booking. An online booking system cuts out the need for the telephone and records everything automatically, leaving you free to get on with something more useful.

Cut back on empty tables

There’s nothing worse for a restaurateur than an empty table, particularly when it’s the result of a no-show. Online systems help with this problem as they make cancellations easy – it can all be done with a few clicks – rather than picking up the phone and calling, which so many people either can’t be bothered, or simply forget, to do. You then receive instant confirmation of the cancellation, allowing you to take on a new booking.

The advantages of online booking are obvious. But, you must be careful – as not all booking systems are the same. So, what sort of features should you be looking out for?

This is what a good, efficient and versatile online booking system should be able to do for you:

Be quick and easy to install on your website

Integrate with online payment systems such as Paypal, Stripe and Paysera. This boosts your cash flow as you can take deposits online and receive payment in advance for special dinners and events. Some systems can even take deposits from groups, with each individual able to pay their own share directly.

Allow you to create templates for specific times and dates. This can help your kitchen by stopping diners from all arriving at once, or allow you to set separate sittings for a service, e.g. at 6pm and 9pm.

Integrate with TripAdvisor, so you can boost your rating by encouraging customers to leave reviews. It’s also useful if this can be done selectively, for example by automatically sending an email to customers who have sent you a five-star rating via your own feedback system.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to use an online booking system, with the overall advantage of encouraging more people to use your restaurant.

To allow you to test these benefits, we’d like you to try our own booking system – Tablein – free for 14 days. There’s no cost, no catch and no obligation – just fill in the simple form below to get started.

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Good reviews can be the lifeblood of your business. Customers saying nice things about your restaurant on your website, or sites like TripAdvisor, encourage others to come and try your food.

Equally, bad reviews are not good for business as they inevitably put people off. Obviously, you wouldn’t put a bad review up on your own website but you have little control over external review sites.

But, with a bit of thought, you can make sure you maximise your good reviews and lessen the damage caused by bad ones.

Here’s our guide to handling customer feedback:

Engage with bad reviews  

It’s not nice to hear bad things about your restaurant, but, when it happens, you should engage with it, rather than ignoring the comments. You should acknowledge and apologise for any problems, but also feel free to politely defend yourself if you feel the criticism is unfair.

Handling bad reviews from good customers  

When one of your loyal customers – the lifeblood of your business – gives a bad review, you must act quickly and decisively. Don’t quibble about it – they eat with you regularly, so their concerns are going to be genuine. Instead, say how sorry you are that they haven’t enjoyed their experience this time. If there is a specific problem, such as long waiting times between courses, explain what you will do to rectify the problem. Also, consider offering something – such as free bottle of wine – the next time they visit you. Any cost to you will be more than repaid by keeping a loyal customer who could have been lost to you forever.

How to spot fake reviews

Sadly, some people – such as unscrupulous rivals or disgruntled ex-employees – may post fake reviews on site such as TripAdvisor. This can be bad news for your business, but don’t forget it is fraudulent and illegal to do this and you must report any review you think is fake to the site owner, and ask them to take it down.

When trying to spot fake reviews, you should look out for things such as lots of bad reviews being posted on the same day, reviews that criticise your establishment and recommend a rival establishment as better, or reviews that criticise you for things that are simply not true. These could all point to fraudulent content.

Get as many good reviews as you can  

It’s a simple equation – the more good reviews you have, the more people will want to visit your restaurant. And when people book a table through your online booking system, you have that most precious resource – their email address. So, the day after they’ve dined with you, send an email asking for feedback on your restaurant. Whatever they say – good or bad – it’s useful information for you and you could use it as a testimonial on your website. And if they really love your restaurant, then send another email that politely asks them to share their opinions on TripAdvisor.

You can try boosting your good reviews by using our booking app. We offer a 14 day free trial and there is no cost or obligation. Just fill in the simple form below to give us a try.

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