You may be in the room rental business, but the average hotel owes 10% to 20% of its revenue to its restaurant. That’s a big chunk of change for any hotel manager, so it’s important to get that side of your business right.
There aren’t a whole lot of similarities between booking rooms and feeding guests, other than that the two complement each other. That means you’ll likely want a distinct restaurant booking system to manage the restaurant separate from your existing hotel software tool.
But what restaurant booking system should you choose?
OpenTable is, as you probably well know, the undisputed king of restaurant reservations. Sales intelligence platform Datanyze estimates that OpenTable owns 22.4% of the entire reservation software market. Their next closest competitor is at 5.5%, and if you look at just the restaurant reservations market, OpenTable has an even bigger lead.
And it’s easy to see why, especially with its massive reach. OpenTable matches up 15 million diners with restaurants around the world. It owes much of its popularity to the fact that it allows restaurants to adjust how many seats they want to open up, allowing eateries to alter the amount of tables they have available based on how busy they are on any given night.
But there are some aspects of OpenTable that may mean it’s not a great fit for your hotel’s restaurant. For instance, it charges $1 for each customer who reserves a table through the system, which can add up over time. Despite OpenTable’s huge clout with the dining public, some restaurants may not be able to eat this per-customer fee.
So what are your options if you want another booking system? We’ve narrowed it down to three key competitors to OpenTable who are narrowly focused on restaurant reservations rather than on restaurant management in general.
OpenTable may rule in the United States, but BookaTable is the European leader in online restaurant reservations. It served 15,000 eateries and had 34 million covers booked in 2015. And it’s got some restaurant industry muscle behind it: Michelin, the company behind the famous restaurant guides and rating system, announced in January 2016 they had acquired the software company to “accelerate its development in the online restaurant reservation market in Europe.”
While BookaTable is better known in Europe than in the States, they are starting to expand their presence in America. Dozens of restaurants in 14 states and the District of Columbia use the BookaTable system already, including top U.S. restaurants like the Russian Tea Room in New York.
BookaTable is similar to OpenTable in that it allows customers to book electronically from just about any device. What makes BookaTable unique is that it has a number of additional services and tools aimed at boosting productivity and increasing the efficiency of the restaurant.
- BookaTable doesn’t publicly reveal their price or pricing model, you’ll have to request a quote directly from them based on your restaurant’s situation
- Cloud technology allows restaurants to manage bookings and the restaurant floor from anywhere, and fill tables when needed
- Customizable booking calendar on your own website for your diners
- A mobile app so diners can book on their phone
- A booking calendar for your Facebook page, improving your reach on social media and enabling diners to book and share reservations with friends
If you’re on a shoestring budget and don’t have a very complicated restaurant operation, Freebookings might be the solution for you. This platform is built specifically for independent restaurants, and is entirely web-based.
The software aims to be simple to use. As a result, it won’t have some of the advanced features available on other platforms, like detailed analytics tools to improve the efficiency of your restaurant.
But if you do want more features, Freebookings is a “freemium” service, meaning you can upgrade from the basic version for premium features and services like mobile optimized websites, email marketing, and advanced table management. That said, be aware, Freebookings hasn’t published a blog post or tweeted anything since 2012, so tech support or other help may be hard to get, but their free service still appears to work just fine.
- Works with any web browser and can be used from anywhere and on any device
- Offer as many reservations online as you want
- Alerts you when someone makes a new reservation, and confirms with customers automatically
- Provides a snapshot of how many covers and reservations you had yesterday and what’s coming up in the next week
- Builds a customer database
Formerly known as SeatMe before being purchased in 2013, Yelp Reservations is a system built for restaurants of all sizes, big or small. Yelp Reservations also claims to be customizable, so it doesn’t matter how you handle customers — i.e., an eatery that requires reservations, or one that only has walk-ins — the software can adapt and help you manage your tables effectively.
Like the other options on this list, you can run Yelp Reservations from anywhere and on any device. Yelp claims its software is simpler and easier to use than OpenTable.
Yelp Reservations doesn’t list the software’s exact price tag, but their website notes they offer monthly rates with no setup fees or cover fees, unlike OpenTable.
- Tracks the entire floor on a dashboard
- Provides accurate wait times to walk-in guests
- Easy online reservations for diners, with automatic confirmation and reminders
- Sends an SMS message to diners when a table opens up, and allows you to receive texts back
- Tracks diner preferences, allergies, and special occasions
How do you reserve your tables?
Obviously, this only scratches the surface of the vast reservation software market. It’s a tough market to navigate for hotel managers, as some software may work great for a restaurant, but be unknown in the hotel industry. For example, some restaurants use Bookeo to reserve tables, even though Bookeo caters toward non-restaurant businesses like schools and tour companies.
How do you feel about OpenTable? Do you know software geared toward restaurants that should be on this list? Have you used booking software that might not seem obvious but would be a great option for a hotel restaurant? Please, let us know below.