The power of bookings systems

BookBookKnowing that their clientele would expect the slickest of service, Adelaide’s now-iconic bar and restaurant 2KW chose highly customisable technology to make it happen, writes Chris Sheedy.

When Adelaide venue 2KW Bar and Restaurant opened its doors in January 2015 its phones were, quite literally, running hot. For the first few weeks an average of 100 calls per hour were received, requiring at least two staff members to manage.

“Perhaps we only should have provided email,” laughs Linda Noack, 2KW’s office manager. “But the most amazing thing about the booking systems we had in place was that they allowed us to work with such an influx of calls. Wherever there was a phone and a computer or a till, you could see current bookings and enter new ones quickly and easily. Several people could enter bookings at once. There was absolutely no need for a diary. In fact, letting go of a paper diary was truly liberating!”

Noack had come from a long career as a venue manager. Her area of technical expertise was in stocktaking systems and, having experienced the efficiencies they offered, she wanted only the best. As she and her colleagues were planning the custom build of 2KW, they looked into several systems but kept coming back to one in particular.

In the hotel industry Noack had worked with various H&L systems and had always been impressed with their reliability, plus the fact that the software was constantly being updated.

The installation of end-to-end H&L systems meant that everything, from stock control to POS to bookings, would be managed by the one brand, ensuring smooth and automatic integration between those systems. Noack has found that the bookings software, BooKBooK, has been surprisingly customisable.

“We knew H&L was a local business so we could communicate with them easily, and I knew from experience that they would respond,” Noack says. “We push our BooKBooK system hard and we feed back to H&L with functionality requests. They often prioritise specific changes and have an update to us within a few weeks.”

Darcy Wilkosz, national brand manager for BooKBooK, says the booking software is only 18 months old in the market, although it was first released into pilot venues two years ago. Since then, BooKBooK has been rolled out into other hospitality businesses.

“Letting go of a paper diary was truly liberating!”Linda Noack, 2KW Bar and Restaurant.

He says the relatively young age of the software means the developers are always keen to continue its improvement by taking constant feedback from the market. The most in-demand changes are worked on almost immediately.

“Our people go out and actively seek feedback from users,” Wilkosz says. “We constantly monitor that feedback and prioritise the most requested changes. Noack was once looking for a specific fix and we were discussing how it might work. She said, ‘What about this way’ and ran us through her idea. It was perfect, so we made that functionality a part of the software.”

The core benefits of booking software vary from business to business, Wilkosz says. But the online booking component is often a piece of functionality that clients are impressed by. “This can actually attract an entirely new stream of customers who prefer the ease of booking online,” he says. “Many people read reviews online then look for a simple online booking system where table availability is made visible.”

Such a system also improves the management of customer flow from the business’s point of view. The restaurant manager can stagger the flow of diners into their establishment, as the system offers the option of allowing only a certain number of bookings at 7pm, then another group at 7.15pm and 7.30pm, and so on.

“The system will never say ‘No booking available’,” Wilkosz says. “Instead, if a time slot is unavailable, it will suggest another, helping to funnel customers into your restaurant and fill quiet periods. It also takes care of SMS confirmations automatically. Our research tells us that booking confirmations will often take one staff member most of a day, so this is an amazing saving of time.”

And it’s not just big business that can exploit the power of data, Wilkosz says. BooKBooK helps you to identify your most regular, valuable and loyal customers, meaning you can offer them extra attention—just as airlines do with their platinum frequent flyers.

Noack says the team at 2KW currently under-utilises the power of BooKBooK’s analytical tools, but its power has revealed itself in other ways. When
a staff member is taking a booking from somebody whose name is difficult to spell, for example, if that person has dined at 2KW before then they will be in the system. The system itself will match up their name and phone number, so the booking process becomes smoother and easier.

“This also takes away the possibility of error, of wrong phone numbers or incorrect names being written down in a diary, for instance,” she says. “It also helps us to identify the venue’s busiest times, and helps us manage evening bookings for our two sittings.”

Finally, BooKBooK is also a powerful restaurant management tool, Wilkosz says, giving the business owner up-to-date feedback about what is happening within the venue at any time.

“It will tell you when somebody has made a booking, when they are seated, when their order has been taken and whether they have been served, when they are offered their bill and whether they have paid, and more,” he says. “It will also seamlessly handle deposit-taking for bookings for certain nights, such as New Year’s Eve, so it becomes your own customisable events manager.”

“Right now we’re simply interested in making sure all of our clients are thrilled with the product, and so far that seems to be the case.”

This great content is produced for members of the Restaurant & Catering Association. Find out about becoming a member here.

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