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Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Reservations

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Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

Reservations have always been a part of the restaurant industry, but until recently, they were typically only found in high-end or fine-dining restaurants. But today, they've become ubiquitous in restaurants of all kinds. In this guide to restaurant reservations, we'll dive into why.

But first:

What are Restaurant Reservations?

A restaurant reservation is a booking made in advance to secure an available table at a restaurant. Reservations used to be taken exclusively over the phone and written down by a host in a reservations book. But today, reservations have largely shifted to online systems, such as Toast Tables, which are quicker and easier to use, and more accurate.

How do Reservations Benefit my Business?

Staff Scheduling

When you use a restaurant reservation system, there’s a clear idea of the number of covers coming in during a given day and time — meaning that you can be proactive and ensure that you have the right amount of staff on board. They won’t be caught off guard by the influx of guests during busy times, ensuring that you can deliver consistent service to every guest.

Inventory and Specials Planning

While the back of the house is not customer-facing, reservations are beneficial for them, too! By knowing how many guests will be in each shift, it's much easier to keep inventory and make sure popular items are stocked. This way, you can manage food costs more easily — and the kitchen is better prepared in anticipation of an upcoming rush. 

This decreases the likelihood of telling customers that certain dishes are no longer available, creating a more positive experience for guests.

Delight Repeat Guests 

Creating a consistent, memorable experience is key to capturing and retaining repeat guests—and reservations play a role in ensuring this. When guests can request specific dietary accommodations or requests for special occasions through online restaurant reservations — and these needs are noted and saved in their guest profiles — the front of the house can go above and beyond from the beginning, meeting (and even exceeding) expectations.

Also, because guests are able to quickly book tables, receive text message reminders, and make changes from their iPhones, this reservation process can improve their overall dining experience. Pro tip: to keep guests happy make sure your reservation platform is user-friendly with clear terms such as your restaurant’s policy on no-show fees, special events, and cancellations.

Make Front-of-House Jobs Easier

Front-of-house staff — especially hosts — set your guests' first (and lasting) impressions. Hosts are the first people guests interact with, and you want to ensure that your host is prepared and ready to provide a positive experience. When guests use online booking to make reservations, hosts get to focus on creating great first impressions on guests instead of fielding telephone calls. They also can better anticipate available tables open throughout the night so they can accommodate walk-in guests, text no-shows, and minimize their waitlist.

A reservation management system also helps your front-of-house staff run restaurant operations smoother. Your host can easily change reservation party sizes after last-minute changes, and rearrange the floor plan in real-time. Virtual updates instead of pen and paper and phone calls enable your host to improve table management.

Turn Tables Faster

Restaurant reservations are another way to efficiently turn tables — and turn them faster. If you set a time limit on tables because the next reservation is coming, you can fill the restaurant with more groups at night and make more revenue.

Integrate with your POS

One benefit of reservation software like Toast Tables is its direct integration with Toast POS system. The POS integration allows for updates and notifications in real-time, making day-to-day operations easier. For example, when a guest swipes their credit card to pay their tab, it will update your reservation system so your host can plan to seat that table soon. This way, your restaurant host can spend less time checking the status of tables and more time greeting and accommodating your guests.

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Restaurant Waitlist Template

A template to help your host keep track of walk-ins and provide estimated wait times, keeping guests happy and staff organized.

Toast

Why You Need an Online Restaurant Reservation System

Online restaurant reservation systems are a convenient way to track reservations without using an old-school restaurant reservation book or a phone. Making a reservation at a restaurant online reduces human error — there’s no mistake with recording the date and time of reservations or fumbling through booklets. 

Online reservation platforms such as Toast Tables do the work for you — guests simply go through your restaurant’s website to reserve a table, and they can cancel or modify their reservation at any time. This platform can add reservation times to guests’ calendars, log their reservation history, and even send reminders! 

You can also promote your reservation system on social media by embedding your online reservation link to your Instagram stores and more! Many restaurants also include the link in their bios. This makes the reservation process even simpler for new customers.

Tables

The power of Toast, for your host

Toast Tables is your one-stop, integrated waitlist & reservation solution - built to enhance hospitality, simplify table management, and keep guests coming back.

Benefits of a POS-Integrated Reservation System

Online reservations systems that are integrated with your POS can make your business operations even more predictable, reduce clutter and labor, and assist with creating seamless, positive experiences for guests. 

Communication between your POS and reservation system is beneficial, especially when you want to look at your revenue and guest spending in real-time. Integrating your reservation system with your POS means tracking wait times with better accuracy, ensuring that you’re generating the most revenue possible.

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Reservations Keep things as Predictable as Possible

While having a reservation system isn’t necessarily mandatory, they’re greatly beneficial for restaurants — and are an important guide for anticipating busy periods, scheduling staff, and projecting revenue. Implementing a modern, online-based reservation system (especially one that is integrated with your POS) doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, either. With online restaurant reservation systems, communication between your guests, host, and servers can be seamless, letting you focus on what matters most: delivering exceptional service, time and time again.

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Restaurant Website Checklist

This template will help you update and optimize your website, so guests can easily find and order from you.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.