The NSW and Victorian Premiers have started talking about plans for easing lockdowns, indicating that once the states reach 70 and 80 per cent vaccination rates more freedoms can be expected.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian earlier this week told businesses to dust off COVID-safe plans and start to prepare for opening, and The Shout spoke to new online booking platform ResDiary about some of the practical steps venues can take to be ready when restrictions finally ease.
Global platform ResDiary launched in Australia earlier this year with its no commission fee feature, bringing to an end its seven-year relationship with The Fork. Rebecca Zeitunian, ResDiary’s Head of Brand and Growth ANZ told The Shout eight tips for how venues can prepare for reopening while still navigating restrictions.
1. Get social
Zeitunian said: “Whilst we’re still in lockdown, consumers have a lot more time on their hands to daydream about where they will be eating and drinking once restrictions ease.
“When coming out of lockdowns, 25- to 35-year-olds are the most aggressive age group securing bookings to enjoy their newfound freedoms. With this is mind, some venues may holt social media activity, however with this age group spending more time on social during lockdown, it would be worth re-starting social content now to ensure venues are kept top of mind when restrictions are eased.”
2. Accept online bookings:
“In a world of many options, it might sound simple but having a streamline and easy to use online reservation system is going to help convert diners reserve a table and therefore increase your bookings,” Zeitunian told The Shout.
“On average, Aussie’s book 50 hours ahead of their sitting, however this is likely increase further to ensure that guests get their preferred dining time, especially to allow for friends and family members to be ‘fully vaxxed’ ahead of dining out again. Make sure guests can easily make a reservation online via your website or linking through on social media.”
3. Managing no shows and taking deposits:
Although encouraging bookings is important, managing no-shows is probably even more vital to ensure you’re not missing out on any potential income.
Zeitunian said: “It’s easy for consumers to make multiple bookings nowadays, so taking a deposit or storing diners card details are just two ways to encourage diners to turn up or proactively cancel and seat those unexpected walk-ins. ResDiary also allows you to send email and text reminders to ensure diners turn up for their booking to minimise last minute cancellations.
“An increased usage of the Credit Card & pre-payment guarantee feature within ResDiary (in an outside of lockdown environment) led to an almost 75 per cent reduction in no-shows.”
4. Increase diners’ average order spend:
“In June 2021, when both NSW and VIC where mostly out of lockdowns, the average bill order was $374 and $194.50 respectively. Although there has been much support for the hospitality industry during the last few months of lockdown, many diners will have been “holding out” to return to in-venue dining and experiences with friends and family meaning they’ll have money to spend.
“To make the most of diners’ pockets, consider the best seating durations to maximise capacity throughout popular sitting timings. From March 2021 ResDiary noticed that venues were offering a variety of sitting times including 30, 45, 60, 90 minutes. A general rule of thumb to keep in mind is 30 mins per person for dinner however you need to consider the time of day, service type and booking size and ensure its right for your venue and customer experience.
“Don’t forget to communicate the sitting times within the reservation process and when following up with guests to re-confirm. A gracious reminder about 30 minutes before the sitting time is up will also ensure that you can keep bookings to schedule.”
5. Offer great customer service
While this might seem like a given, Zeitunian told The Shout this should not be forgotten or underestimated.
“Consumers will be eager to dine out and have great experiences that you can only get from being at a venue inclusive of the hospitality spirit and connection to people, so customer service is going to be paramount. Try and be as personal as possible by remembering the names of regulars and their preferences. With many part time staffers, it’s not always possible which is why ResDiary’s customer profiles will help store their information to provide the best possible service.
“Smart yield management and turn times function also allows you to turn tables effectively, preventing guest waiting at the door. For those who walk in, be sure to add them to a waitlist and provide them an accurate wait time.”
6. Think ahead to summer and festive season:
“Events and group bookings over the festive season are going to be crucial to many hospitality businesses this year. With larger groups of diners than the rest of the year, make sure you’re set up to deal with them by accepting event enquiries from your website as this will save you a lot of time on the phone. Be sure to get back to every enquiry, whether you can take them or not as even if this booking doesn’t happen, responding could mean the conversion of another booking for an alternative date.”
7. Cut out any unnecessary costs:
“When looking at maximising your revenue, doing a supplier audit, and cutting down unnecessary costs or fees is going to help with cash flow. For example, ResDiary offers zero per cent commission from all online booking platforms, meaning you won’t be losing any of the spend from that booking no matter whether booked via google search or your social channels.”
8. Integrate your systems:
Zeitunian told The Shout: “By connecting a POS and booking system, venues can have a deeper understand of business performance allowing for an increase in efficiencies and better forecasting while improving the dining experience for guests.”
By Andy Young