You can’t rush a good meal, but that doesn’t mean restaurants’ kitchens don’t want to be quick.
Many of the best eateries have turned speed into a science. According to studies, most diners will wait 10 to 20 minutes for a table, while smart managers know how to get customers seated and fed in to have multiple turns of the dining room.
When it comes to a la carte dining, online table reservation facilities on restaurants’ websites and the wave of reservation apps such as OpenTable and Reserve have revolutionized the process. Now restaurants can give prospective diners instant feedback on availability, while providing reservations in a way that gives valuable insight into party size and turnaround time. It has made securing a reservation simple and easy.
But, beyond a la carte dining, there is a much bigger opportunity for which restaurants are still in the slow lane--and a larger payday that many venues are leaving on the table.
Events or private dining for bigger parties--such as weddings, corporate gatherings and meetings--are restaurants’ biggest new revenue driver. By many accounts, in fact, these bookings can make up to 30 percent of income for restaurants that provide event space
Many venues know this, of course. They have successfully wrestled the small-event business from hotels and are reaping the benefits. But, while speeding up their a la carte reservations, the sales processes for this bigger more profitable event business can often look arcane.
With little developed best practice around today’s available technologies, the job of the event manager is often frustratingly manual. Where reservations have been quickly digitized, booking and planning an event still largely relies on pen and paper methods.
In busy venues where staff all lend a hand, the phone can often ring off the hook. According to a survey from Quality Track International, 28 percent of group sales inquiries are lost, ignored or abandoned by event sales managers. The biggest crime? Most of the sales inquiries are simply never returned.
In the past few years, I have talked with hundreds of restaurant, hotel and unique event sales managers. They are very smart and driven people, leading the way on bringing the event revenue stream to their venues. But, when I hear how they are forced to use a mix of unrelated technology such Excel and email to do their job, I shudder.
You see, a manual process to return leads and communicate with your prospect can oftentimes be painfully slow--but people want replies to their inquiries as fast as possible. When a prospect--who may, let’s remember, bring in 25 or 30 people for an event--sends an email inquiry, the event manager may take a day or longer to respond. But that is precious time that the prospect cannot wait for.
Other industries have realized this too. If you go to the websites of many technology platforms, marketing services or a growing range of others these days, you are increasingly likely to see a chat prompt in the corner of your screen.
These industries understand that when a lead is knocking on your door, it is bad for business to make a prospect wait for a response. What is the cost of taking too long to respond to a lead? Your prospects will go straight to your nearest competitor. It is the venue that responds to leads the fastest is the one who will win the business. In the instant satisfaction environment, sales and customer service have gone real-time.
Nothing frustrates potential customers more than having to wait. Over the course of a year, dropping that one ball could mean potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost event revenue.
That is why, when it comes to responding to event leads the first one in wins.
Jonathan Morse is the CEO and founder of Tripleseat, a web application for restaurants, hotels and venues designed to increase event bookings and streamline the planning process. Before launching Tripleseat, he was vice president of sales for a web startup that delivered business intelligence reporting to the restaurant industry.