Blog Post / November 29, 2018 / Restaurant Industry

How Restaurant Reservation Wars Impact Your Dining Experience

by Bianca McLaren
Bianca McLaren

As diners, we have endless possibilities when choosing where to book a restaurant reservation. From discovering new restaurants on third-party booking apps or booking a reservation directly on your favorite restaurant’s website, most of us don’t think how we book will have an impact on the dining experience itself. But, it definitely does.

When diners book a reservation through a third-party app, restaurants lose out on vital information that allows them to get to know the diner – from email addresses to food preferences and allergies. In fact, some of this information is often intentionally withheld by third parties, because their business model relies on owning the guest relationship directly themselves, instead of the restaurant. Additionally, these third-party companies often charge restaurants tens of thousands of dollars a year in per cover costs, a massive expense for any restaurant. However, when restaurants can obtain information on their guest upfront, without paying high reservation fees out of pocket, they’re able to turn a person walking through the door into a valued regular.

Guest Data Proves Key to Creating Memorable Experiences

With insight on each diner, restaurants can tailor a specific experience for every guest, from when they book the reservation to when they sign the check. With over one million restaurants in the U.S. alone, restaurants are turning to personalization to stand out from the competition, and diners are taking notice.

Recent research from SevenRooms actually reveals that a quarter (24%) of Americans admitted they wouldn’t return to a restaurant if their dining experience wasn’t memorable or special. It’s no secret that customers are craving personalized treatment, and restaurants that hang their hat solely on providing decent food just won’t cut it. In an increasingly crowded dining landscape, restaurants need to understand their diners at a more personalized level to create a truly customized experience from start to finish.

For example, if a customer frequently makes a restaurant reservation at the same time, orders the same bottle of wine each visit and has a peanut allergy, the restaurant is able to use this information to prepare for their visit by offering a preferred reservation time, greeting the guest by name, having more tailored wine recommendations and recommending a special that does not contain peanuts. This signals to the diner that they are more than just another face at a table -- they’re a valued guest.

What Diners Really Wantwhat diners want, complimentary wine, birthday

The most important part about gathering guest data is that it helps restaurants to understand exactly what diners want and how to accommodate those preferences. It’s clear that diners value a personalized experience, but what does this really mean? SevenRooms’ research also found the top reasons people would choose to return to a restaurant again and again, and they include a complimentary glass of wine (35%), being greeted by name by a host (35%) and receiving a complimentary birthday dessert (50%).

Whether it’s a free drink or a personalized greeting, it’s quite simple: guests just want to feel special. By paying attention to their customers, restaurants can provide a higher quality of service and prepare the perfect, tailored experience for each diner every time they visit, whether they are a first-timer or a regular.

Experiences Worth Sharing

Direct bookings, and putting the resulting guest data directly into the restaurant’s hands, benefits both restaurants and diners. Guests who experience amazing service tend to share it with others, whether through word of mouth or, more commonly, social media. In fact, 69 percent of millennials take a photo of their food before eating. And most of these photos end up online. Because social media strongly influences our actions, it’s no surprise that the data also shows that twenty-two percent of Americans have gone to a restaurant based on what the food or atmosphere looked like on social media.

A few months ago, Instagram announced the ability for users to book a restaurant reservation directly on the platform. Now when you see an amazing dish on Instagram or trendy restaurant décor picture, diners can easily secure a reservation without leaving Instagram. It gives restaurants a way to instantly capture a booking while a guest is still thinking about them. Plus, it provides a better experience to the consumer who otherwise would have had to jump through several search funnels to get a reservation.

Because experiences are so important, it is crucial for restaurants to own the customer relationship and have the information they need to tailor each and every visit. A quality menu is not enough to impress the modern diner and restaurants need to find ways to make them feel special from start to finish. By using direct booking, restaurants save money on reservations and third-party apps which they’re then able to invest into improving the actual guest experience, like that complimentary glass of wine. Also, having a direct relationship with guests allows restaurants to offer unique experiences like special tasting menus and events that aren’t available through third-party apps. Dining out is so much more than just food. It’s about the experience of feeling welcomed, recognized and taken care -- in short, hospitality.

About the Author

Bianca McLaren

Bianca McLaren is the Senior Manager, Brand Marketing at SevenRooms, where she heads up brand awareness, communications and event programming. Based at New York HQ, she's always on the hunt for the best sushi in the city.

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