4 ways to manage restaurant bookings

For restaurant owners, maximising bookings is crucial for maximising occupancy. But of all the options on offer, which is the right one for you? Here, we take a look at the pros and cons of the various ways of managing bookings.

Managing bookings by phone

Managing restaurant bookings by phone is probably the best known and most widely used method. However, even if taking bookings by phone has the advantage of being easy to set up and accessible to everyone, it does have its limitations. 

Taking phone bookings is extremely time consuming. Your staff have to be on hand at all times – sometimes at the expense of customers already seated. 

It is estimated that over a third of customers book a restaurant between 12 noon and 2 pm and between 7 pm and 9 pm, i.e., during peak dining hours. Having to answer the phone while dealing with customers in the dining room can disrupt the service flow and impact on its quality. 

This creates extra stress for your staff, and it is not uncommon for this stress to come across through the telephone. 

Managing your restaurant bookings by phone can also be tricky in that misinterpretations, mix-ups and errors can occur over the date, time, name, number of people, etc. – especially if the caller does not speak French. 

In addition, you have to be extremely organised  to record bookings taken by phone and plan your seating plan properly.

Lastly, calls made outside your restaurant’s opening hours are likely to be missed and booking requests will inevitably be lost. We have found that, on average, 10% of calls to restaurants go unanswered.

Although it is still important to be available by phone, it is not recommended that you rely exclusively on this method to take customer bookings.

Outsourcing booking management

Some restaurants have opted to outsource booking management to external service providers such as call centres. As well as saving time, this approach means your customers can always reach you by phone. 

However, this alternative can be expensive (a commission of €2 per cover, on average). Another drawback is that you no longer have control over the quality of the service provided to the customer over the phone. If the person taking the call is unfriendly, impatient or unprofessional, this could harm your restaurant’s reputation.

Managing bookings online

You can also manage your restaurant bookings online from your website. 

Relying on the contact form or email is far from ideal, however, since communication does not take place in real time and managing each booking is more cumbersome (each customer has to be answered individually). The same goes for social media (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp Business, etc.). Although these tools are crucial for marketing your restaurant, they are not best suited to managing bookings. 

That said, having a website that is professional, ergonomic, responsive and intuitive is essential. At the very least, your site should include your restaurant’s menu, opening hours, address and several photos. 

Using booking software solutions

Today, more and more restaurant owners looking to streamline the management of their restaurant are turning to software solutions to automate the bookings function completely.

For example, Zenchef offers restaurant owners a booking management module, available on the restaurant’s website, with zero intermediaries or commissions.

With this easy-to-use management tool, your customers can make a booking in just a few clicks whenever they want, 24/7. 

You get reassurance that no booking request will be lost, even when your restaurant is closed. 

From your side, you can send alerts and automatic notifications by email and text message to your customers, informing them of the status of their booking (confirmation, change in arrival time, cancellation, etc.).

This type of digital management tool lets you:

  • Save precious time and focus on your core business.
  • Effortlessly maximise your restaurant’s occupancy. 
  • Request a credit card imprint from your customers to discourage no-shows.
  • Programme automatic reminders to be sent to your customers on the day of booking with a link to cancel in the case of unforeseen events. 
  • Visualise the seating plan online and check, simply and in real time, how busy your next shift will be, allowing you to plan your staff rotas and manage your inventory accordingly. 

Booking modules are also a powerful marketing lever, since they enable the creation of comprehensive customer files (with emails, names, reviews, etc.). You can extract all the data you need to send emailings, newsletters, special offers news, event announcements, and so on. 

These reservation systems are also excellent CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools. They gather key indicators that can help you better understand your customers and analyse trends in your business activity (demand, peak periods, absences, culinary preferences, tastes, allergies and other consumer habits, etc.). 

Using this valuable data, you can pinpoint potential shortcomings and areas for improvement in your business. You will then be able to adjust your offer, build customer loyalty, maximise your restaurant’s profits and offer a personalised welcome to your customers.

For more tips on running a restaurant, check out our other articles: 

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