Restaurant Online Booking Systems

Everyone loves convenience! If there is an easier way to get a job done, then humans are always in favor of the more efficient route. The advent of the internet on a global basis has helped people revolutionize the way that they do business, subscribe to services and even go out to eat! Consequently, the growth of the restaurant online booking systems has increased substantially in the last 10 to 15 years.

The basic premise of online restaurant booking is both diner-centric and restauranteur-centric. For the customer, it allows them to find the location of the restaurant, look at the menu offerings, and check on average prices, physical ambiance and book the reservation for a no waiting in line experience. For the restaurant owner, it is a way to manage not only the food preparation requirements needed on a given day but to handle the most important inventory which is their tables. The advantages just stated are only a few for both the consumer and the provider of restaurant dining food services.

So how does this all work? The guest will simply go online, either to the restaurant’s website or to the online booking service and start the process.

Research and Compare
Although there are a substantial amount of offerings in this space, we will explore some of the leading online booking systems. We will explain their services, compare them with each other and attempt to inform what they can and cannot do for both the diner and the restauranteur.

The ones that we wish to discuss are as follows.

Approaches to Online Booking
In some ways in comparing the systems of online booking, it is a somewhat like comparing apples and oranges. It is not a good comparison. The reason is because it depends on the booking portal. This is where the restaurant owner will purchase the system use it on their own website. It is booked from the restaurant owner’s portal. It is managed and controlled by the user.

It is the restaurant owner that subscribes to and controls the service. They are not part of a group of restaurants to pick from. Customers came to their website and made the reservation. These customers found the website because they had eaten there before, or through social media, pop-up ad, or a referral.

Alternatively the other arrangement is more controlled by the application provider, and the restaurant is simply one of the thousands of restaurants in the pool. Basically, the restaurant is an affiliate with the booking provider. Here the customer goes to the online booking service website, searches for the restaurant by location, type, price points and so forth. Once the customer finds the restaurant that they wish to dine at, they reserve the restaurant for this service. This information is then provided to the particular restaurant via their website or in-house application provided by reservation service.

The comparison table below is by no means exhaustive. Information was gathered by referring to each company’s particular website. Some of the information was implied but not specifically stated on several of the sites. The pricing features were only clear on some of them and will require requesting information on the ones without specific pricing.

It is clear that all platforms are not created the same. As we look at each one below, we will discover some of the nuances to each.

Below is the comparison table on the services and the main discussion points.

easyTableBooking OpenTable Yelp Reservations Bookatable The Fork ResDiary NexTable
Free Trial Option yes
30 days, no credit card requered
no
No
no
No
no
No
no
No
no
No
yes
60 days, no credit card requered
Guest Exclusivity
All data belongs to the restaurateur and guests will no be offered discount points or marketing from competing restaurants
yes
Yes
no
No
yes
Yes
no
No
no
No
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
System compatibility
All features accessible
Windows yes
Yes
no
No
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
no
No
MacOS yes
Yes
no
No
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
no
No
iPhone yes
Yes
no
No
yes
Yes
no
No
yes
Yes
na
N/A
yes
Yes
iPad yes
Yes
 yes
Yes
yes
Yes
no
No
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
Android yes
Yes
no
No
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
yes
Yes
na
N/A
no
No
Pricing
Average size restaurant with 300 bookings / 1,200 booked covers per month
Plan easyTableBooking (one version only) Guest Center Yelp Reservations N/A Pro RD Express
(up to 450 bookings/month)
NexTable
(less than 125 seats)
Startup Fee $0 $1,000 $0 N/A $0 $0 $0
Booking/Cover Fee $0 $1/cover $0 N/A $0
($2,22/cover booked from The Fork or TripAdvisor)
$0 $0
Monthly Fee $70 billed annually
$75 billed monthly
$249 $249 N/A $65 (59€) $149
($225 if more than 450 bookings)
$79
($99 if 125 seats or more)
Total price first year $840 $18.388 $2.988 N/A $780 $1.788 $948
Read more Read more Read more Read more Read more Read more Read more

Pros and Cons – Guest
For the guest, there are more positives than there are negatives. The biggest benefit is the ability to “check-out” the restaurant first (the restaurant’s website) and make sure that they have a table when they arrive. This also gives the ability to the diner to cancel or modify a reservation. There is no more waiting in “line”, well for the most part that is true.

That is where the downside may occur. If the reservation was for 8 PM, and the table reserved was being used by another party starting at 6 PM, what happens if the 6 PM diners stayed until 8:30 PM? This is the restaurant’s responsibility to correct, but it could be a downside here. So just be aware that getting your table at the exact time requested may not be always true.

Pros and Cons – Restauranteur
Most of the pros and cons for the owner of the establishment should have been weighed long before that decided to use the service. A good website with a contact page may be all that is necessary for reservations with smaller eateries. The biggest question that needs to be answered is whether the clientele would have shown up without the ability to reserve. Meaning is the business volume lacking that reservations will increase revenue.

The biggest positive thing is that it provides a valuable customer experience, potentially more customers, and a better table inventory flow. After a serious implementation trade-off analysis of cost versus efficiency, the return on investment will take care of itself.

The downside to these conflicts in scheduling based on diner eating duration and cancellations. This means that table use can potentially overlap, creating seating problems. If a cancellation policy is not properly implemented and understood, it could defeat the purpose of the booking system in the first place.

easyTableBooking

The format provides for restaurant owners booking on and through their own website and social media. It appears as a very intuitive website offering real-time table management. The drag and drop feature helps on effective table management.

The interesting thing about easyTableBooking is that they push customer exclusivity. By this, they make a point that the restaurant owner’s guests are those owners’ guests. These guests should not be allowed to use points accumulated at one restaurant to be used anywhere else. This includes marketing other competitor’s restaurants to the same customers. It is a point well taken over the some of the other online booking systems.

Pricing is very straight forward. It is $70 per month with additional texting SMS charges (optional) of $.05 to $.015 depending on the country. For the most part, this is perfect for restaurant owners who need as many fixed cost items as possible. Overall, this service looks like a good fit for many restaurants.

When compared to Opentable.com, it would appear that easyTableBooking is a very strong alternative that is cost effective.

NexTable

The website for NexTable was simple to understand and capture very quickly the features available. However, the features were explained in paragraph form and some of the direct comparisons on the table had to be inferred from the feature description.

The platform allowed for some special benefits such as a Customer Relationship Management customized for the restaurant. The reason this is important, especially of operators of more than one restaurant, is the information it captures. This includes food or drink preferences, any allergies, birthdays, anniversaries and so forth. The reason this is important is because it can be used to welcome the customers in a very personal way when they arrive, it can be used in the SMS texting marketing messages.

The pricing for the service has a Free for Life option. The free option has enough features that will help a very small restaurant. Basically, it is an introduction to the service but is most likely designed to get you to the paying service after a month or two of usage. The next price level is at $79 per month. Includes us to 200 texts per month and unlimited covers! It is designed for less than 125 seats. The next level is $99/month and designed for more than 125 seats and up to 1000 texts per month.

Yelp Reservations

Yelp acquired seatme.com in 2013 for $12.7 Million. Seatme.com was a startup in 2011. This was Yelps entry into the restaurant online booking services.

The website was a little weak on explaining their features and benefits. So some of the comparison benefits had to be inferred over to make the comparison! In addition to this, it is not possible to get pricing information unless you request a Demo first.

Bookatable

Bookatable boasts of over 15,000 restaurants on board in over 39 countries. It is in affiliate format where customers go to directly to find a restaurant. It includes the mobile app to allow diners to book directly from their smartphone.

In addition to this, it has a nice book by phone feature that allows customers to place a reservation to an automated phone system, directly to the subscriber restaurants venue. The Pocket Diner converts a restaurant owner’s website into an optimized mobile website. By description, this service automatically detects the type of device that the customer is browsing on and optimizes the display for that device.

Included also is a reputation aggregator from multiple locations about the restaurant. Basically, it gathers comments and opinions formed on the internet and bring them into one location. Nice feature so that the restaurant owner can see how their reputation in the community is performing.

Trying to get pricing for restaurant owners from the website is not possible. A contact request must be made. This forces only the serious owners to seek inquiry as the non-serious ones will not make the contact. Consequently, the pricing on the comparison table is for their Pocket Diner Service.

OpenTable

When trying to get information for restaurant owners, either features or pricing, the website will direct you to a “contact us” page. It apparently will not disclose anything unless you talk to them first! Started in 1998 it now boasts of over 37,000 restaurants using the service.

The consumer points bonuses really help OpenTable drive customers to their service or app than it is to drive customers to the restaurant that the earned the points. And the restaurant gets charges for giving these points out. The best place to get to the pros and cons of Opentable.com is at Review Tracker Open Table.

Due to the high price points, a restaurant owner will have seriously weighed the return on investment costs in subscribing. It is difficult to get all the features unless one makes that contact to OpenTable first as a serious inquirer. The pricing on the comparison table was from a third party report.

ResDiary

This is a very rich information website. Under table management, they have this feature call “The Diary”. This is an interactive, live management tool that gives the table plan, grid view, running order view, reservations details, calendar view and more.

It also includes a Yield Management feature and online reservations complete with integration to Facebook, twitter, and the restaurant owners website. The pricing starts at $69 per month, then $149 per month and then $225 per month. The pricing structure starts out with a cap on reservations per month of 150, then 450 then unlimited, respectively.

The phone reservation feature, the SMS, and email marketing and additional management tools are add-on extras. There are many other features including CRM. Gift Vouchers are available for the restaurant owner. The ability to take deposits to minimize the no-shows is a huge benefit.

The Fork

The service appears to be mainly in Europe. It boasts of the ability to diners that they can discover top rated restaurants, then book according to the diner’s desires, and then get exclusive offers. For restaurant owners, they have a no-obligation free trial.

The unique feature here is that the restaurant will be published on TheFork, TripAdvisor and their own website with a reservation button. As with other services, they offer a turnkey website. They also have a ROI calculator to aid in the decision to use their service.

Conclusion

There is a mantra in many industries called “Know Your Customer”. For restaurant owners, it is even more than that. They have to “Know their Restaurant” in such a way that they understand whether using any of the services will bring in the additional revenue. They also need to know the differences in the services as it pertains to their particular restaurant and clientele. There is no “one size fits all”, so researching the services is paramount.

From this brief explanation of restaurant online booking systems, it is apparent that the options for both consumers and restaurant owners are varied and sometimes confusing. It is our desire that this short article has the ability to clear up some of the confusion. We wish you a great online reservation and dining out experience to the consumer. We wish the best of growth to all the hard working restaurant owners worldwide.

Table data was obtained by provider’s websites, their terms of use, their frequently asked questions and various other resources that was available at the time of this article.

To the best of our ability, we believe that the information provided was accurate at the time of publishing. However, we do not warrant the accuracy and suggest that the reader continue their research and confirm its accuracy. August 2016.

Other languages:  Croatian,  Czech

Specific Comparisons