A Look at Restaurant Reservation Systems and If It’s Actually Worth the Investment To Save Your Restaurant Money
We’re living in a digital world—and for restaurants, that means slowly but surely adopting more technological solutions for everyday problems.
Out of all the restaurant tech, one tool is seemingly helpful and sticking around—online reservation systems.
Consumers want to do things online. They want ease, flexibility—and for the love of god, they don’t want to speak to a real person over the phone unless they have to.
And while you might think having a reservation system is the industry norm, we found out in a recent survey that 59.4% of restaurant respondents don’t use reservation software…yet.
If you’re in that camp but considering implementing a new reservation system, here’s a painless analysis of the potential return on investment (ROI) to decide if it’s worth the price for your business.
The Cost of Restaurant Reservation Systems
Today, all kinds of reservation software are available, but for restaurants, three brands dominate. Those are OpenTable, Resy, and Tock.
OpenTable Plans and Pricing
OpenTable has three plans— Basic ($39/mo), Core ($249/mo), and Pro ($449/mo).
At first, the Basic sounds like a great value. You get everything any restaurant wants from a reservation system—at a manageable price.
You can take reservations, customize your company profile, send direct messaging, and gain access to analytics, notes, and guest database features.
Some bonus features include marketing tools, post-dining surveys, and take-out ordering.
But be careful and do some math before jumping in—their fee structure can get extra pricey if you look into it.
When a reservation comes through OpenTable’s website or app, they charge a $1.50 fee per person. On top of that, there’s also a fee of $0.25/per person for reservations made through your own website.
Considering how many covers you do on a single evening, that $39/month could quickly become too expensive.
The Core and Pro plans might be better options, even though they seem more expensive.
You’ll still pay a $1 fee per person for a reservation made through their site or app, but reservations made through your website are free.
Resy Plans and Pricing
On the surface, Resy is pricier. Their plans start at $249 monthly for the Basic, then move up to $399 for the Pro and $899 for the Enterprise.
The upside, there are no cover fees like OpenTable. What you see is what you get.
The basic plan offers reservations, waitlists, and table management software. You can also plan ticketed events, experiences, and add-ons.
They boast 24/7 support, user permissions, and password protection as features included in their pricing, so the Basic plan is…pretty basic.
The next tier of plans includes POS integration, customizable data and analytics reports, customizable messaging, post-meal surveys, and more.
These more advanced features can be valuable in helping you visualize your ROI, but whether they’re essential is up to you and how you want to utilize the software.
Tock Plans and Pricing:
Tock’s plans and pricing seem much more customizable than the other two companies, which is nice.
Their reservation system packages start at $249/mo for the Plus and $749/mo for the Pro plans.
The Plus plan includes reservation, table, takeout, event, and guest management software with unlimited covers, users, and devices. They charge a 2% fee on prepaid reservations, which will likely cover payment processing fees if you require a customer to pre-pay for their dining experience.
The Pro has everything the Plus plan has, but they don’t charge a fee for the prepaid reservations. So unless you plan on doing a ton of prepaid reservations, a $500 price increase doesn’t seem worth it.
Then they have “à la carte” options for features like Events or Tock To Go.
Tock To Go is a simple reservation and online ordering system. Still, they charge 3% per order. I recommend sitting down and visualizing how you plan to utilize reservations—getting one of their all-encompassing plans might be more cost-effective.
Five Ways a Reservation System Could Save You Money
At first glance, the plans and pricing might seem a bit much—but depending on how you use a reservation system, you could quickly optimize your return on investment.
Here are a few ways to use reservation software to your advantage.
1. Improved Customer Experience
While many humans seem to enjoy standing around in lines, many others do not, especially if you’re notorious for long wait times.
An online reservation system allows customers to weigh their options on their own time. They won’t have to wait until your establishment is open, be placed on hold, or worse—reach an answering machine.
So not only does making a reservation online create a better customer experience, it’s become an increasingly expected feature. If you don’t have it, you could miss out on business.
2. Decreasing No-Show Reservations
An online reservation system can keep potential customers in check to increase attendance rates. Or, at the minimum, it gives customers an easier way to cancel, so you know what to expect.
Most online reservation systems send out reminders and confirmation notifications. Additionally, they usually connect to customers’ preferred digital calendars, decreasing no-call no-show reservations.
Reservation software is increasingly allowing restaurants to collect a deposit on a reservation. That way, your guests are held accountable (but if you use something like Tock, a fee might be associated).
3. Keep Menu Costs In Line
When you have a reservation system, and you either only take reservations or secure a certain number of seats for reservations, it can help you visualize your business and menu needs.
Knowing how many customers you can expect on a given week is a great way to manage your food and beverage costs. Of course, there is always variation, but you can plan your menus and know how much you’ll need to order.
With inflation on food and drink costs right now—taking advantage of reservations can really help save on costs.
4. Manage Staffing Needs More Efficiently
In addition to keeping menu costs in line, optimizing reservations can also help with staffing expectations.
Think of it like a crystal ball showing you what any day during the week might look like. With a pretty high probability, you can estimate how many people you’ll need on hand to ensure a successful night.
Overall, this increases your team’s productivity because you can ensure enough work for everyone.
5. Increased Marketing Opportunities and Other Added Features
Many large reservation software companies have implemented marketing opportunities to help their restaurant partners. This includes using their email campaigns to push restaurants that use their systems and promote them on their site.
Depending on your software system, you should see what options are available and what types of fees or pricing are associated. Likely there is a newsletter or a page with profiles listed that help promote your restaurant to browsing customers.
Are Reservation Systems Worth It?
With all the economic worry in the news about inflation, rising interest rates, and now failing banks, I wouldn’t blame you if you’re looking to cut corners where you can.
But if one of those corners is ditching online reservation software, I recommend looking elsewhere.
The return on your investment could be well worth it and help your company’s overall productivity.
Be sure to sit down and evaluate your needs to find the software that will be the best bang for your buck.
You’ll want to assess your typical volume and weigh that against all the different plans and pricing models. Also, check out what features are included and how they could help you generate more business.
Taking advantage of customer data is a great way to stay competitive and keep your profit margins in line.