Nationally acclaimed restaurant Fonda San Miguel of Austin, Texas was used to handling reservations the traditional way: pen, paper, floor plan and black marker. It’s a system that any lifelong restaurateur is familiar with. For general manager Danny Herrera, communicating with guests over the phone when they called to make a reservation ensured the personal touch that guests have always appreciated.
The pen and paper method, however, wasn’t without its challenges. Reservations could be misplaced and counting and recounting totals to see if a particular night properly booked took time and was susceptible to errors. During busy periods, a missed phone call or a prolonged response to a reservation inquiry meant lost business.
While thousands of restaurants have implemented the OpenTable reservation system, the Fonda San Miguel management team wasn’t concerned by holding out for a different solution. Herrera didn’t feel the OpenTable business model was in Fonda San Miguel’s favor and hoped to find a partner that would help take the brand to the next level without sacrificing profits or control of a client database. Cost was also a factor. Pen and paper remained the better option.
When local startup RestaurantConnect
first contacted Herrera, he was hesitant to discuss another reservation system. He wanted improved relationships with customers, a way to get important feedback, and better ways to manage their brand and improve operations – all at a reasonable price. Since RestaurantConnect is an Austin-based company, he agreed to a demonstration. Almost immediately his attitude transformed from apprehension to intrigue.
More than just a reservation system
The private-label solution not only reassured Herrera that Fonda San Miguel came first, but it also showed him that the system was created by a team that knew the restaurant business well. Features focused on personalizing each diner’s experience demonstrated the potential to improve upon the personal touch that was so important to their restaurant – at a fraction of OpenTable’s cost.
Fonda San Miguel had the new reservation system up and running in under a week. At the same time, the website went live and accepted its first online reservation on February 16, 2012 and in only two and a half months handled more than 3,300 guests booked from online reservations. The restaurant has nearly a thousand quality e-mails in its own database (and growing) that management can market to on its own terms with RestaurantConnect’s marketing tools.
“With RestaurantConnect, we’re better organized and I know what’s going on in the restaurant even when I’m not there,” says Herrera. “We haven’t lost a single reservation since going live. And we’ve discovered that guests find comfort and convenience in making their reservations online.” With the pen and paper solution, guests had to be called one by one to confirm each reservation and phone messages had to be meticulously listened to and phone calls returned. Now, RestaurantConnect handles this process wherever an e-mail address is associated with a guest’s profile. Manual labor is reduced and saved time can be directed to taking better care of the guests in the restaurant.
Social initiatives drive satisfaction and loyalty
Fonda San Miguel’s guests not only appreciate the ability to book online, but to confirm or cancel reservations via the system’s automatically generated emails, which reduced no shows and allows the restaurant to make sure the space gets rebooked. With Facebook integration, guests can invite friends out to eat and post their dining choice to their timeline. A guest’s single Tweet from the reservation widget can introduce the restaurant to potentially thousands of new guests. After dining, a follow up thank-you email sends a review request so the customer can tell restaurant management about their dining experience.
Meanwhile, Fonda San Miguel is always informed about guest’s dining preferences. Accepted invitations automatically populate the database with new customer e-mails and pictures – exponentially growing the e-mail marketing list. During service, guests are notified when their table is ready with a text message to their phone which further enhances Fonda San Miguel’s database for RestaurantConnect’s upcoming SMS marketing capabilities. For Herrera and the team at Fonda, RestaurantConnect delivers a toolbox of new opportunities to provide that personal touch to more guests, more efficiently.