Taking a few extra moments with your customers is a good way to decrease the amount of no shows and ensure your restaurant reservations show up.   Only one in five customers who make reservations show up. That’s a 20% average and a study from the Wharton School of Business concludes that each cancelled reservation costs your restaurant about $200.

Let’s turn the tide on this trend by finding out how you get them to show up. The first step is figuring out what NOT to do.

Important Dont’s

  • Don’t stop taking reservations because of no shows. I have seen this create disastrous results for restaurants due customer who don’t want to risk showing up and waiting.
  • Don’t charge or take a credit card number to hold the reservation (except for very special events and rare types of restaurants).  This offends people and shows you don’t trust them. Remember that if 20% don’t show up, then 80% DO show and you want them to feel valued and wanted.
  • Don’t overbook. Of all the common practices used to prevent no-show, this one affects your restaurant the most, by angering your customers who still have to wait an hour for a table that they reserved.

Each of these practices is common but they make it more difficult for your customer to choose your restaurant as a place to eat, don’t make it hard for your customers to choose to eat at your restaurant.

Important Do’s

1) Tell the customer you’re pleased they’re calling and will reserve their place. Inform them, though, of the consequences to their reservation by politely letting them know the effects it has on business if they cancel without notice.

“Thank you, Mr. Smith, for calling, we are excited and happy to hold your table. If you can’t make the time please call back right away and inform us so we can seat other diners.  Missed reservations have a dramatic negative effect on our business and most importantly hurts our employees if we have to send them home early or leave a table empty in their section.”

They will respect the honesty and start to think of your business in terms of people instead of an enterprise…

2) Ask qualifying questions that get them excited about their experience. Here are some examples to show you can make it personal:

“Is there a dish you’re looking forward to enjoying?”

“Will you be celebrating a special occasion with us?”

“Is there a table or server you prefer?”

“Is there anything special we should know about your evening so we can ensure we are well prepared?”

Also, ask them to repeat the date and time as well as where they have placed the information to ensure they will not forget.  “Would you mind repeating your reservations details and let me know where have you entered the appointment to be sure you will not forget?”

You don’t have to use all the questions, but pick the two or three that come most naturally to your organization.  My favorite questions to ask are: something they’re looking forward to, the one about a special request, and where they have placed the information to ensure they won’t forget.

3) Follow Up

These follow-up questions are, indeed, a MUST.

Before hanging up, be sure you have introduced yourself again. Inform them that you’re personally looking forward to meeting them at the specific time they’ve reserved.

Let them know you’ll be calling them a day or two ahead to confirm.

Ask what is the best phone number and email address to reach them.

Ask if they would prefer a text message or a phone call as a reminder.

Commit to following up and repeat any information you’ve been given regarding special requests, dishes, or who their server will be. I recommend following up with an email even if you have spoken to them on the phone or left a voicemail.

This may feel uncomfortable and intrusive, but this isn’t too much information. People have more demands on their schedules than ever before and the extra personal contact is a way of showing them you care.

If you don’t have a reservation system you can simply program emails (and sometimes text messages) like this into any email marketing or auto-responder system you are currently using to send emails.  Plus, if you really want to get the most bang for your new reservation procedures, trigger an email from your auto responder to be sent to guests the evening they dined with you.  The email should be brief with a genuine thank you and a link to leave positive feedback on your favorite social media / review site or to send any negative feedback or concerns directly to the owner or operators email address.

You will be SHOCKED at how much this will increase your Yelp / Trip Advisor ratings and prevent negative comments being posted publicly because of your care and their ability to connect quickly and easily with ownership.

These steps are good ways to create closer contact with your customers. This gets them personally involved and makes them more likely to remember your restaurant for their current and future dining experiences.

If you found this useful then discover more great tips that you can use right away in my Free 5 Video Serieson TheRestaurantBoss.com.

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