10 Ways to Capture More Online Restaurant Reservations

Every hour that a restaurant table sits open is not only an hour of lost revenue but it's an hour of paid wages and utilities, as well. Online reservations could help restaurants to properly staff each location based on expected turnout and could even help to get more customers through the door.
In this article, Christine Lorusso, Digital Marketing Manager for Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, offers restaurants 10 tips to help increase their number of online reservations, ensuring their websites are working to driving revenue to each restaurant location. 
1. Create separate pages for each restaurant location
While the services offered at each location might be the same, they are each only relevant to people in that local area. Make it easy for customers to book a table by having a unique page for every location. Also, be sure to include local content that speaks directly to that market.  For example, showcase the chef, seasonal specials and location details.  
2. Make the reservation link prominent
The link to make a reservation should be above the fold on the web page in large lettering that is easy to see. The more time someone has to hunt for a link, the more likely he is to head to a competitor instead.  Remember, reservations help fill seats and bring in revenue.  
3. Make the website mobile-friendly and responsive
People who are looking for a local service are increasingly more likely to search from their phones than from their desktop or laptop computers. All pages of the restaurant's website should load easily on mobile devices and be responsive. The reservation system should also be very easy for people to use from their smart phones. Ease of use is key to increasing online reservations.  Don’t forget a clear Call to Action to book reservations online. 
4. Consider using booking services
Many people visit a website like OpenTable, Rezbook, or Zomato Book directly to do a blanket search of restaurants in their area. By being listed on these sites, a restaurant can capture reservations from people who might otherwise not have known about the restaurant or that it takes reservations online.  During certain times of year that restaurant reservations are in high demand, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, these types of websites can be paramount in bringing in new customers who will hopefully become frequent, long-term patrons. 
5. Partner with last-minute booking services
There are a number of websites that allow restaurants to list available tables when there are last minute cancelations. Others offer reward schemes to diners who book during off-peak hours. These websites usually have a small fee associated with them that can easily be recouped by filling tables that would otherwise go empty.
6. Add a reservations link on Facebook
Instead of sending visitors to the restaurant's homepage from Facebook, try sending them directly to a reservations page. Reservations, along with menus, directions and open hours, are the main reason people visit the website. By sending them directly to the page, the restaurant make it that much easier for them to book a table.
7. Use the restaurant's email list effectively
Most restaurants engaged in savvy online promotion – such as a birthday, anniversary or loyalty rewards club – collect a list of customers names and emails. Mailings from this list should always include a link directly to the reservations page. Include the link in the signature as well as in the body of the email. Restaurants can also send out special promotions for days or times when there are fewer reservations than usual.
8. Promote online reservation capabilities in print ads
When running print ads to promote the restaurant, include details on how to book reservations online.  Often, consumers would rather use an online interface for customer service than call a business on the phone. Online reservations are convenient. Patrons can immediately see which days and which times reservations are available.
9. Information about reservations should be in text, not an image, format
Search engine spiders can't "see" words displayed in pictures. For them to know what a page is about, restaurants should include a short piece of text describing how patrons can use the online reservation page to book a table. Doing so assures that the page will be indexed and that it will show up in search engine results. Since many local purchases start with a web search, making sure that the reservation page displays in the search results is imperative.
10. Use a clear call to action
Throughout the website, include a clear call to action to “Reserve Now.”  Each restaurant location's page should have its own call to action, in addition to the call to action listed on the home page and other prominent site pages.  This is also true for landing page content and digital ads.  Paid ads directing to landing pages can often generate thousands of impressions.  So to ensure the restaurant's ad content is effective in generating reservations, make sure that the booking options are prominently displayed. 
Christine Lorusso is the Digital Marketing Manager for Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, a collection of 41 polished-casual restaurants specializing in classic American cuisine such as steaks and seafood grilled over an authentic wood-fired grill. The menu features a variety of authentic selections that are infused with bold flavors and prepared in its scratch made kitchen — all seared over local hickory, oak or pecan wood.
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