Optimize your seatings and increase your revenue

If you have many guests in the restaurant, you can increase your revenue by taking a good look at your seatings – here are some tips for getting started.  

Maybe your restaurant is always booked at a certain timeframe. Maybe your restaurant is extremely popular and you experience a huge demand on the tables for certain hours. But even if you have a popular restaurant the struggle with empty tables at certain hours in the night is not unusual.

Nevertheless your restaurant is full in certain hours and empty in others. There are a few ways to avoid this scenario. By making some simple actions you can get more guests each night – hereby increasing your revenue considerably.

In Denmark, the renowned Restaurant Schønnemann have experienced better results by changing their seatings:

“By optimizing our seatings, we have gained 10 pct. more guests in the restaurant,” says Juliette Noyons Rasmussen, who is the owner of the restaurant.

The same picture shows at another popular Copenhagen restaurant called Sokkelund Café & Brasserie:

“At Sokkelund we have a lot of guests each day, and therefore it is very important for us, that we can optimize our timeplan and guest flow in the best way. Since we have started focusing on optimization, our revenue has increased considerably,” says Martin Hildebrandt, owner of the restaurant.

But how can you optimize seating and increase your revenue? The chapters below describes individually how you can make it possible for your restaurant to get more than one seat each night:

Handle the availability of the tables strategically

In every country, people often eat dinner around the same time. In Denmark, people eat early compared to southern Europe. The majority of Danish people eat around 18:00-18:30 compared to people from Spain who are known for eating late, around 9 o’clock.

Maybe at first hand, it does not seem like a problem, but for many restaurants, it can easily result in empty tables the rest of the night.

Why? Because when the majority of your guests’ makes a reservation in the same time frame, it can be challenging to make room for extra seating earlier or later in the evening.

To avoid an empty restaurant in specific time slots, you should not let all tables be available all night. Instead choose a certain number of tables to be available in the most popular time slots. The rest of the tables can be available around 30 minutes before or after. This is especially for the countries where people eat around 18:30 – which make it difficult to get an extra seating.

TimeAvailable bookings in pax

Strategically handling the availability of the tables can affect your guests’ typical booking pattern, and will hopefully make the guests’ more prone to book at other hours. As a result of your guests booking at different hours, you will have the possibility to use the table twice.

How can you do this in the most straightforward way? A booking system with this option is a great way to control the availability of your tables.

Be aware of not completely deleting the opportunity to book tables in the popular time frame. If you only have tables at 17 o’clock for the first seating, then you will probably lose customers.

Let’s take an example: 

A Danish restaurant has a lot of bookings at 18:30. But they already open at five. It would make a big difference for the restaurant to get bookings earlier in the table plan, so they have room for a second seat later in the evening. The restaurant changes the settings in their booking system and only make it possible for a few guests to book at the popular time frame. The rest of the tables is instead available around 17:30.

Moreover the restaurant makes a time restriction on the table, so the table will be available for new guest at 19:30. This is what the next chapter is all about…

Choose time-restrictions on the first seating

Now, we have explained the issues about people booking in specific hours which results in a full restaurant in certain hours and an empty one in others. 

Another way to optimize the seatings, as a lot of restaurants already do, is making sure the booking is time-restricted, so you do not miss the opportunity for a second seat. But be aware. If you choose a limited time for your guest in the first seating, then it is important to let your guests know about it in advance.

If you have a booking system, you have the opportunity to let you guests know for how long they can sit at the table. Tell your guest, before they book, about the time-restrictions on the first seat. In Denmark a lot of restaurants have time-restrictions on the first seating for around 2-2,5 hours.

So… for how long is it reasonable for your guest to have the table? 

It depends on 3 different factors: 

  1. What kind of restaurant do you have? Is it a gourmet restaurant, a bistro or more like a café? Is
  2. Is there a lot of serverings ? Or Is it more a bistro or cafe where people only order on dish?
  3. What kind of staff do you have? Are they good at keeping an overview in a stressful situation or would a short time frame be to stressful? And do you have enough staff to cover the extra work?

Other important stuff you should think about before choosing time-restrictions is the following: 

  • Are your waiters already too busy? Are they capable of making sure the guest can order as fast as possible (so they will be done eating inside the time frame) 
  • Are the kitchen too busy? And most importantly, what kind of service do you want to give your guests? Are you closer to being bistro than a gourmet restaurant? If you are a high-end restaurant, then the time-restrictions is probably not for you.

But more importantly. if you only serve around 1-3 courses, it would probably be a good opportunity for you to have space for new guests later in the evening and probably more increased revenue.

Figure out beforehand how long your guests are planning to stay 

Another thing you can do, even if you already have time-restrictions on your seatings, is to get your guests to choose for how long they want to book a table.

 If you have a booking system, this can be a possibility, when the guests are booking a table online. 

Let us look at an example;

The (already mentioned) popular Copenhagen-based restaurant Sokkelund Café & Brasserie makes it possible for the guest to choose for how long they want to book a table.

The guest can choose three different time slots: 1,5 hour, 2 hours or 2,5 hours. This can give the restaurant a good picture of how long the guests want to sit at the table – and if they are coming for a quick bite or they are planning a three course meal.

(image: Sokkelund – https://book.dinnerbooking.com/dk/da-DK/book/table/day/229/2)

If your bookingsystem have this option available for you, then the system will only book the table for the amount of time the guest have chosen. This means you can get a lot more bookings because you know which guest, who will only be coming for one meal. This can definitely increase your revenue of your restaurant.

Below the different time options, it would be an idea to explain the guest for how long the guest should expect to spend on either a tasting menu, a theatre menu or one course. 

This is valuable learning for the restaurant. Maybe the guest already know they are only going for a burger before the movie. 

The picture below is an illustration of a restaurant, who has gone a step further. The restaurant has both named the time slots and added different food or menus. First of all they made three options: 

They made: 

  1. Theatre Menu:120 min between 17.00 and 17.30
  2. A la carte: 180 min 18.00 and 21.30
  3. Tasting Menu:240 min between 18.00 and 21.30

An extra tip! If you do not have a lot of different menus like tasting, theatre menu etc. then you can also choose to name the time slots:

  1. Short restaurant visit (1,5 hours) 
  2. Normal (2 hours) 
  3. Extenden  (2,5 hours) 

Using the term “normal” can affect the guest to choose exactly this option. People have the tendency to choose “normal” if they have the opportunity. Nevertheless these three options can both give the restaurant and the guest an idea about the guest wishes – does the guest prefer a slow dining experience or a quick one.

And then the last little tip, for you who have a booking system

The week is getting closer to the weekend, and you know it is going to be busy. A lot of your tables have already been booked. To make sure the larger tables are going to be filled, you can ensure the larger tables will be used optimal. 

For example, if you have a five person table, it will be best to fill this table with a party of four/five people rather than by two persons! If you have a good system, this is a possibility to create a minimum of people who can book that exact table. 

Do you need help getting started? Feel free to send us a mail at support@dinnerbooking.com or give us a call at +45 32 55 50 48. NB: your possibilities for optimizing are best if you have a business or enterprise version of DinnerBooking.

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