Why You Need A Restaurant Scheduling Tool Instead of Excel

The year is 2018, and modern restaurants are beginning to realize that scheduling with Excel just doesn’t cut it for the functionality that is needed for maximum efficiency.

Creating a staff schedule in 2018 and beyond is a dynamic process with constantly changing factors, such as staff availability, vacation requests, or variable sales.

Excel has proven itself to be a time consuming and cumbersome affair for scheduling, most notably because it is a one-way tool – managers have to constantly inform staff of changes made. What a time suck!

Shifts are rarely set in stone and often change quickly, which easily leads to headaches for managers who must stay on top of changing requests and make sure the entire team knows about those changes.

According to Snag, a marketplace for hirers and job seekers, managers spend approximately 25 percent of their time making a schedule each week and dealing with schedule management issues, such as shift swaps.

That’s a long time to spend using an inefficient tool. However, scheduling doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, once you have the proper tools you can make scheduling something that you will look forward to completing. Here is why using a dedicated schedule tool beats Excel every time.

Always Up-To-Date

The one-way nature of Excel means that whenever there are updates to be made to the schedule, a new version of the schedule has to be sent out to employees. This is very time-consuming and cumbersome, especially when changes are coming at you frequently. For this reason employees often do not know if the version of the schedule they have is the “final” one, which leads to missed shifts and miscommunication.

With a cloud-based scheduling tool you can eliminate this miscommunication because shifts are constantly updated. The moment you make an update to the schedule, all of your employees will have access to their most up-to-date shifts, and can be alerted if their shifts change. This virtually eliminates the excuse of “I didn’t know I was suppose to work?!”

With online restaurant scheduling software, you can also accommodate last-minute time-off requests from staff using free mobile apps –  such as the one 7shifts offers. With a scheduling app, you can easily approve requests or update availability on the fly, which are then incorporated into your schedule.

Better Communication

According to Forbes, two of the top five reasons employees are unhappy at work directly relates to a lack of communication. Scheduling with Excel can only exacerbate this problem. Nobody wants to show up to work only to realize they weren’t scheduled, feel that their vacation requests are not being taken into consideration, or ended up playing phone tag with another member of their team.

Just as SinglePlatform offers multiple outlets for you to provide customers menu information, restaurant scheduling software offers a variety of ways to communicate with your employees.

Employee scheduling software allows staff to communicate directly with one another using messaging and team chat, as well as provides managers the ability to send one-way announcements to their staff for things like special events or even tonight’s special.

If an employee can’t make a shift, it’s easy for them to let their coworkers know or even help find a shift replacement, saving managers time in having to reach out to each employee individually.

This connectivity closes the communication loop between everyone on your team – ensuring excellent communication and job satisfaction, which in turn leads to increased staff retention.

Make Payroll More Accurate

Payroll can be a headache for even the most experienced restaurant manager due to constantly changing shifts and swapping between employees. Not only is it tough to stay on top of payroll, it is always very time consuming – over a quarter of small business owners spend up to five hours a month dealing with payroll, according to Score, a non-profit that mentors small businesses. Payroll is also unforgiving – if the numbers are slightly off, then the calculations must be done all over again, or worse, the employees are paid incorrectly.

When scheduling with Excel, payroll problems can easily add up due to human error, such as calculating payroll with an outdated schedule that does not accurately reflect who worked when. Nobody wants angry employees who have not been properly compensated.

Employee scheduling software can help avoid these pitfalls listed above by integrating with your restaurant’s existing payroll system to sync the hours that are actually worked with the proper pay. This takes human error out of the equation and can allow you to let out a sigh of relief knowing everything is accurate.

Look for a scheduling tool that comes with either direct payroll export or comes with integrated time and attendance, which can help eliminate manual errors that result from improperly updated Excel spreadsheets.

Automation & Time Savings

Excel is great for saving time calculating data using formulas, and automating simple calculations, but as powerful as it is, it has no way to automate the creation of your staff schedule every week.

This is where scheduling software really shines. Similar to how you can use SinglePlatform to automatically post to your social media feeds, restaurant scheduling software you can set up schedule templates to help you create your schedule automatically. This efficiency and time savings means you can spend more time on other parts of your business that need your attention.

And remember that automation doesn’t just end with schedule creation. With dedicated restaurant scheduling software you can automate tasks like overtime alerting, shift reminders and more to help make you time on repetitive tasks.

In Closing

Don’t make life harder than it has to be – working in hospitality is hard enough already! It is up to a manager to use all the latest tools at their disposal to create efficiencies in order to stay competitive and profitable. Making the switch from Excel to a dedicated scheduling tool may take some adjustment because Excel is what you and your team are used to, but once you make the switch, you’ll never look back!


About the Author: Eric Stober is a freelance content producer for 7shifts, an employee scheduling platform built for restaurants. Eric has written for publications such as Global News and the Toronto Star, and has a keen interest in travel, technology, entrepreneurship, spirituality and mindfulness.

Are You Using These 3 Restaurant Customer Service Tips to Delight Customers?

We’ve spoken about customer service efforts outside of your actual restaurant, but let’s discuss the strides you should be taking when a customer comes in to dine with you. You’ve made an awesome impression online, done a great job of responding to online reviews, and have an appetizing menu that draws diners in. Now, you have to make the experience match up to the expectations.

According to New Voice Media, U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service! Don’t let business opportunity slip through your fingers because of insufficient customer care.

We discuss 3 restaurant customer service tips to make a positive impression on your guests.

Be Quick to Greet

No one wants to wait. It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting for a train or a subway, are on line at the supermarket, or are anticipating the season premiere of your favorite show – waiting isn’t fun! And guests don’t like waiting at your restaurant either. I’m not talking about the wait time for a vacant table on a busy Friday night, that’s bound to happen and is understandable. I’m talking about the time it takes for an employee to greet a new customer once they walk in the door.

When a guest enters your door, you should be there to greet them and let them know of next steps, whether it be to follow a hostess to their seat or take a number in line for a free table.

Your greeting is quite literally the first in-person impression someone will have of your restaurant. It comes before the food and drinks, the entertainment, and the rest of the service. And it matters for your profits.

After one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again.

I once entered a restaurant that wasn’t at all crowded. I stood at the hostess table waiting for someone to greet or seat me, and well, nothing. A few minutes passed by and I watched servers walk back and forth to tables, bartenders look at me and continue on their way, and other staff meander in the rear of the restaurant with no intentions of making a move. After those minutes passed by and I wasn’t greeted, I left. They lost a customer just because they weren’t forthcoming or friendly.

Your staff should be trained to greet customers whether it is their main job function or not. In that situation, the unbusy bartender could have said hello and let me know that someone would help me in a moment.

Depending on your restaurant concept, you may have a host or hostess that is always available to welcome new customers. If not, you should still have a staff that is friendly and attentive at all times. Don’t let a single guest go unnoticed or else you could lose what could have been a valuable loyal customer.

Be Attentive, Not Annoying

There’s a fine line that exists between being diligent and overbearing. People are dining out to enjoy great food and the company of each other. Your waitstaff shouldn’t become a part of the party, but instead an observant asset that is aware of guests’ needs.

We’ve all had experiences with both scenarios. On one hand, you have an overly-involved waiter who checks up on you every few minutes, asks if there is anything else you need, and hands you the check as soon as you’ve dropped your fork. Their helicopter ways are so intrusive that you feel like you should just invite them to join the dinner.

Then, you experience a server that makes you question whether they were in the flesh or just a figment of your imagination. You saw them briefly once you sat down, but they went off in the distance to cater to other guests. So much time passes that you have to call them over yourself in order to place your order. They bring you your food and disappear before you can ask for extra napkins. By the end of the meal, you’re considering asking the restaurant owner himself for the bill.

Both situations are not ideal and ones you should strive to avoid in your own restaurant. Being a restaurant waiter is all about timing (and of course, some patience). Know your cues and don’t overstep your boundaries.

Make a Lasting Impression Through the End

Your customer gave you their credit card to pay for the meal and are getting ready to leave. This doesn’t mean you can forget about the customer service you provide. Your impression lasts until a diner walks out the door (and of course, extends beyond that as well).

Just as you greeted them on the way in, you should send guests off with the same effort. Let them know you were happy they dined with you and are anticipating their return.

Offer up something extra, like after dinner mints, toothpicks, or an espresso to finish the dinner. Even up the door for them if possible. Every little detail counts when it comes to customer service. And believe me, they’ll notice.

In Closing

Lauren Freedman, President of E-tailing Group, was quoted saying, “Always keep in mind the old retail adage: Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.”

Don’t miss out on more customers and higher profits because your restaurant failed to provide a positive customer experience.

American Express studies reveal that 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service.  Putting in the extra effort to be attentive and accommodating will go a long way.

Dining Out Isn’t Just About Eating & Exiting, It’s About the Dining Experience

With the influence of technology and trends, a memorable experience is becoming more of a necessity than a nicety. In fact, an EventBrite survey revealed 75% of people believe unique dining experiences are worth paying more for.

Has your restaurant considered how your dining experience is impressing your guests? Below, we discuss different experiential concepts, both restaurant related and not, to give you ideas to apply to your own business.

Simple Experiential Elements

With the technology available today, it’s easy for people to choose to order delivery and stay in the comfort of their own home, which is why we believe restaurants need to make it more about the overall dining experience than ever before.

Experience doesn’t have to mean marveling your guests with fire-flame throwers or hiring a Mariachi band. It can be as simple as providing the right lighting, music, and decor to really make it memorable.

Maybe you installed a display worthy of an Instagram photo-op or make the dinner interactive by allowing the chef to cook before guests’ eyes. Diners want to feel like they’re getting more than a meal, so create an atmosphere that impresses them.

Take a look at these examples of restaurants who have considered and executed upon the experience factor.

Tokyo Record Bar

 Via nycgo Via nycgo

This Greenwich Village hideout is an 18-seat establishment with the focus on the full experience. They urge guests to make and stick to their reservations, as a full house is what makes the trip worthwhile. Upon arrival (if you find the entrance), diners are asked to pick a song or two for the meal’s playlist. All choices are then combined and become the soundtrack of the night. Once the vinyl starts spinning, guests are treated to a seven-course tasting menu. The focal point here isn’t necessarily the food, but the combination of the senses that create something unique.

Alinea

 The Clear Pumpkin Pie via ABC News The Clear Pumpkin Pie via ABC News

Aside from being a three star Michelin restaurant, this Chicago outpost is known for its inventive creations and prolonged (up to four hours) dining sessions. Testing the limits of science, guests may enjoy a clear pumpkin pie or edible balloon. You’ll engage your senses throughout the edible journey and enjoy reputable food and wine pairings. Plus, things will be glowing and there will probably be dry ice at some point. The restaurant describes itself as unconventional, which is safe to say is true.

UltraViolet

 Via AWOL Via AWOL

Experiential dining exists across the globe. In Shanghai, Ultraviolet brings immersive dining to life with the influence of technology. The establishment only has one ten-seat table and is hidden away in a nondescript location (diners meet at an external meeting point before entering). Once there, guests enter into a controlled atmosphere of sight, scent, and sound. Plus, there’s a 20-course menu to coincide with the sensory elements.

Ask yourself if you have a concept that’s unique enough to inspire people to want to spend a day or evening with you. Will it be memorable? Will it be worthwhile?

Experience is Popping Up Everywhere

Restaurants and bar concepts have capitalized on the pop-up experience popularity. Creating a “pop-up” or limited time event is a great marketing tactic. It encourages people to purchase tickets (if necessary) before the rest of the crowd and creates a sense of urgency. If it’s the hot new thing, people will jump on the chance to experience it before it’s gone.

The same Eventbrite data we mentioned above revealed that after having a positive pop-up dining experience, 90% of respondents would recommend the restaurant or chef to loved ones, and 87% say they’d return to the restaurant with friends.

Many times, restaurant and bar pop-up endeavors are inspired by popular television shows and movies. Washington D.C. welcomed a Game of Thrones bar in 2017, a 3,000 square foot space that spared no details when it came to recreating the most popular elements of the show. Drinks were all GoT inspired elixirs and although they were arguably pricey, fanatic fans waited on line for hours just to get inside.

 Game of Thrones pop-up via Thrillst Game of Thrones pop-up via Thrillst

Similar concepts have been produced based on shows like Stranger Things, Golden Girls, and Saved By the Bell.

However, pop-up doesn’t just mean it has to be based on a cult-favorite film or series. It can simply mean a limited timeframe for an event. The Magnum ice cream brand hosted a summer pop-up in New York City, where they invited guests to create their own edible concoctions. It closed down when summer was over, which makes sense since the fall isn’t exactly a high season for ice cream.

 Magnum pop-up via amny Magnum pop-up via amny

A pop-up can also mean a featured chef or bartender making a pit-stop at another location. Emily, a popular pizza joint in Brooklyn, hosts the pop-up Margot’s Pizza right within their own turf. Guests have to purchase a ticket to the event (which has already been sold out for each spot in 2018) to experience the culinary creations of Adam Kuban, not of the Emily owners. The purpose? To help Adam gain more exposure within the community. Soon, he will piggyback off the success of this series and open his own pizza parlor.

Pop-ups are great exposure for up-and-coming chefs and bartenders because they let people who have previously flown under the radar to gain more notariety without having to open a full establishment of their own. This concept has created a sense of community and camaraderie between restaurateurs, as opposed to competition. Plus, it gives the guests a unique experience to enjoy as well.

Outside of Restaurants, Experience is Still Key

 Museum of Ice Cream via sf.curbed Museum of Ice Cream via sf.curbed

An experiential focus doesn’t just apply to restaurants. Companies and brands are creating pop-up events and exhibits focused on interaction and documentation on social media.

Take the Museum of Ice Cream for example. Founder Maryellis Bunn created a pop-up wonderland out of sweets, sorbets, and sprinkles. The museum came to New York in 2016, but has since traveled to places like San Francisco and Miami for limited stints. While at the museum, ice cream fanatics dive into pools of rainbow sprinkles and pose for photos with larger-than-life Maraschino cherries.

The museum has amassed over 450k followers on Instagram and if you search the hashtag #museumoficecream, you’ll find 171k related posts. The brand recently launched an ice cream brand and has worked on collaborations with large names like Sephora and American Express.

Tickets often sell out quickly because of the urgency factor and the fact that it’s the perfect setting for high-quality Instagram content. Similar endeavors have popped up recently including the Color Factory and Rose Mansion.

 via Rose Mansion via Rose Mansion

The popularity of these events goes to show that people are looking for something memorable, so consider taking these ideas and apply them to your restaurant!

Food Trucks & Markets

 via Pinterest via Pinterest

Trucks

Food trucks have been on the up for a while now and have given diners at grab-and-go experience that may have been unexpected. The mobility allows owners to get up and move to a new location at their discretion to reach a wider audience. Trucks are also a more cost-efficient way for newcomers to gain exposure before opening a permanent location.

While the restaurant industry has grown at a yearly rate of 2% recently, food trucks are growing rapidly at 7.9%! This goes to show that the mobile meal-makers are a hit with people across America. Trucks offer all different cuisines ranging from tacos and burgers to kebabs and yes, even lobster. Plus, many of them serve as perfect backdrops for a photo or two.

Markets

Market halls have also been on trend in metropolitan areas. Popular restaurants that already have physical locations are also scoring space in halls comprised of multiple different vendors. You can find multiple food halls in New York City, including Chelsea Market and Gansevoort Market, that boast some of the best eats from around the Big Apple.

Boston has big plans for the market scene as well; a recent article by Eater states that one day a food hall will be present on every Boston corner, even referring to them as “the new food truck.”

Food halls give people a different kind of dining experience. Besides a plethora of food options and cuisine types, they take us back to our grammar school cafeteria days. Suddenly, we’re eating among people we haven’t even met before, brought together by a meal.

Plus, food halls take your typical mall food court up a notch, typically offering items from sought-after chefs and hyper-local establishments rather than conglomerate chains.

In Closing

Dining out is no longer comprised of grabbing a bite and going. Today, people want more out of their time at a bar or restaurant; they want a full-on unforgettable experience.

There are plenty of ways you can create an extraordinary encounter for your guests, with something as simple as lighting and music or as complex as creative elements involving technology and innovation.

Whatever you choose, keep the expectations of your diners in mind and let your business’ personality speak for itself.

Does Your Restaurant Location Matter as Much Anymore?

Location has long been known as the primary consideration for many of life’s biggest decisions. Where you choose to live is determined by various outlying factors. Is it close to work? Is the school system good? Are there plenty of things to do nearby? It’s all about location, location, location.

The same has been true about opening a business. You’re told that choosing the right restaurant location t heavily influences its success. If you’re too much off the beaten path, you might not get any customers. If you’re in a bustling part of town, there could be too much competition. But, with the prevalence of technology today, does your restaurant location really matter that much?

Below, I explore the reasons why location isn’t as much of a deciding factor for your business as it once was.

If You Instagram It, They Will Come

According to WordStream, 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram per day. Let’s face it, your restaurant’s social media presence matters. Tons of foodies, influencers, and restaurants themselves are posting drool-worthy photos of bison burgers oozing with cheese and colorful scoops nested in sugar cones. The goal? To attract social scrollers to get up off the couch and get that trendy treat before it goes out of style.

The point is, if someone is tempted by an item they see from your restaurant, they’ll put in the extra effort to pay you a visit. Of course, if you’re serving up a lemon meringue cronut in Manhattan, someone from Utah probably won’t trek 2,000 miles just for a fix. But, if they’re living in the Upper East Side and you’re located on Wall Street, they might just hop on the 4 train to get there.

I must admit I myself have fallen victim to the influence of Instagram. I scrolled by photos of one restaurant’s delicious looking dessert pizza for months before I finally caved. I had to taste the cannoli cream atop the crispy crust for myself. So, I drove about thirty miles out of my way for my own little slice of heaven. It was well worth it. And of course, I Instagrammed it too.

The moral of the story here is that people aren’t finding your restaurant by chance as they may have years ago. Hungry diners are discovering new places on social media, on travel, review, and search sites. If your online presence is strong, they might just make the trip, no matter how near or far you are.

It’s A Piece of Cake to Get Anywhere These Days

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember unfolding the paper map and rambling off directions to the driver. I can recall firing up the dial-up Internet and printing out paper directions for my dad before a major trip. Today, all of that sounds about as archaic as dinosaurs.

With the use of advanced GPS navigation, available with a few taps on a smartphone, anyone can get virtually anywhere. Simply type in the address or name of where you’re headed and you’ll get a route with step-by-step directions. Because of this convenience, it’s not such a hassle for people to find your business. Tucked in the woods? Waze will get you there. On the other side of the highway? Use AppleMaps to find a way.

As echoed above, if you have something a hungry customer wants, they’ll make an effort to get there. Of course, we’re not telling you to choose the most obscure place to set up shop, but if you’re not in the most convenient of locations, it shouldn’t matter as much as it once did.

However, you should start thinking about the accuracy of your online information on these navigation platforms. 70% of listings are wrong on navigation sites. If your address or business name is wrong on a major navigation site, you’ll send diners off in another direction. Not only will you have made someone angry, you most likely lost a customer for good.

The roadtrip to you starts with your online presence, so make sure it’s accurate. SinglePlatform has now added a powerboost to our offerings by getting your accurate business information on the most used navigation tools today. To learn more, visit this page.

Competition is Fierce, But You Can Win

Sure, there are a lot of restaurants here in America (we clearly like to eat). Although there are over 650,000 spots to dine in the US, you’ve got something that makes you special. You’ll probably have a few competing restaurants in your area, but you should focus on what helps you stand out.

Hone in on your menu, establish your social presence, and make sure your business is accurately represented online.

A recent survey by TripAdvisor found that 94% of US diners are influenced by online reviews & 60% are influenced by a restaurant’s photos when choosing where to eat.

It’s clear that the experience with your restaurant begins before the food is served, so make sure your business is represented in the best way it can be. A well-executed website and strong marketing strategy should also be considered as part of your overall plan.

If you go above and beyond the basics to ensure your restaurant has an impressive online presence and provides a memorable in-house experience, it’ll be easy to conquer the competition. It’ll also be easy to attract new and returning diners regardless of your location.

In Closing

Choosing a location has long been known as an important element of opening a business. But, the technology available today makes it less of a concern for business owners than it once was.

Diners are no longer finding you by chance as they travel along a highway; instead, they’re researching places to eat online, finding restaurant menus, and reading reviews before making a decision.

Instagram influencers are tempting followers with trendy treats, and navigations apps are getting people anywhere they want to go at any time. Although you should still consider location as a factor in your restaurant decisions, it simply doesn’t have as much of an impact as it used to.

If you have delicious food, an outstanding staff, and the online presence to match, hungry diners, with the help of GPS, will travel near and far to join you for a meal.

Is it Necessary to Respond to Positive Online Reviews?

Restaurant reviews are easy to come by these days – diners, whether delighted or disturbed, are willing to give their unsolicited opinions on public forums. There are plenty of platforms to post an evaluation on, like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google, just to name a few. As a business owner, it’s wise to keep tabs on what people are saying about your restaurant in order to maintain an impressive reputation online.

I’ve already discussed the importance of responding to negative reviews in an earlier article, but is it necessary to respond to positive online reviews as well?

Below, I discuss the etiquette and best practices for responding to positive online reviews about your restaurant.

Yes, You Should!

The answer is simple, yes, you should be responding to positive online reviews just as often as negative ones. Of course, it can be argued that addressing negative feedback should take top priority because a scathing summation of a customer’s experience can cost you business. But, positive reviews are just as important to your online and in-house reputation.

Appreciation Warrants Appreciation

A satisfied customer took time out of their day to praise your restaurant and detail the experience they had dining with you. They didn’t have to recount their positive experience with readers, but they did. The least you can do as the restaurant owner is to acknowledge your appreciation of their kind response. You can keep your reply simple, thanking the customer for their words and hoping that they’ll join you again.

Showing that you appreciate the effort a customer put into writing a positive review makes your restaurant seem more human. It can also help establish long-standing relationships with customers and inspire loyalty.

It’s Free Advertising For You

Leaving a positive review isn’t the only kind of a customer to do, it’s free, favorable advertising for your business.

According to BrightLocal research, 60% of people read online reviews for a local restaurant or cafe. Further, 73% of consumers trust a local business more after reading positive reviews. Positive reviews clearly matter to hungry diners thinking about visiting your restaurant.

When people see a large number of high-star reviews for your restaurant, they’re more likely to dine with you. Personally, when I’m looking for a place to eat, I take into account the number of positive reviews. The more negative reviews I see, the less chance there is that I’ll dine there.

If people are reading your restaurant reviews, which they will (consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business), they’ll notice that you’re putting the effort into responding to them. Again, this further establishes a personality for your brand and shows that you care about customer service.

So, How?

You know you need to respond to positive reviews of your restaurant, but how should you begin? Of course, you’re busy and can’t dedicate hours per day just responding to criticism and praise on different review sites. But, you still want to maintain a presence and rapport with your customer base. We’ll outline how you can achieve it.

Create a Boilerplate Response

Come up with a generic response that you or your staff members can use when replying to an online review. It will help to set the voice and tone you want to convey for your business. However, providing canned responses for every review won’t look good on your part. Of course, you’ll want to tailor each reply, but having a solid example response is a reference point. It ensures that whoever is handling review responses has a starting point they can refer to and utilize along the way.

Address Them By Name & Use Yours

Most times, you’ll be able to see the name of the person who left the review. Use it! Personalization goes a long way. A simple “Hello Mary” or “Hi Peter” can help build the connection between you and your customer. Again, it establishes that human voice behind your brand and shows that you care about your customers’ opinions.

You can even sign off using your name to end the response. If you’re the owner of the restaurant, or even another employee, use your name when wrapping up your reply. This further shows that the response was made by a real person and not just an automated system.

Get Specific

As mentioned above, canned responses won’t reflect well on your business. You want to address an individual’s comments when applicable. If someone mentions that they loved your chicken noodle soup, say something about it in your reply. For example:

“Hi Samantha, We’re so happy that you had a memorable dining experience at Westside Bar & Grill. Our chicken noodle soup is one of our specialties, we use my grandmother’s recipe to get it just right. Thank you for your feedback, we look forward to having you join us again soon! – Bill”

Going the extra mile to mention a highlight not only makes the interaction more conversational, it shows that you read the review and that you, again, appreciate it.

Carve Out Some Time

A restaurant business is hectic, unpredictable, and fast-paced. At times you probably feel like you don’t have time to breathe, let alone time to respond to reviews online. But, it’s essential, and designating some time to the task will help you stay on track.

Create a weekly calendar block when you know your schedule isn’t as busy and use that time to responding to feedback. Things may come up and priorities will shift, but you’ll at least have a helpful weekly reminder to check in on your online reviews. Making review response part of your routine ensures you will keep it top of mind.

Reviewing Your Reviews

Reviews can be found on an array of websites and apps. It can be time-consuming to have to keep up with every review on each platform. Here at SinglePlatform, we strive to make your life as a restaurant owner easier. That’s why we created our Review Intelligence and Review Monitoring tools. With these tools, we aggregate all of your online reviews from the essential sites into one easy-to-use platform.

From there, you can drill down on reviews by star ratings for different categories. Quickly identify what makes your business stand out from the crowd and what areas you need to make improvements in. It’s review reviewing made easy with SinglePlatform!

In Closing

Responding to positive reviews is just as crucial as addressing negative comments about your restaurant. Providing a personalized, well-executed response will help to establish a synergy of sorts between your business and your customers.

Utilize these tips to become a master at review responses to lift your restaurant up to the next level of customer interaction and care.

Modernize Your Restaurant with Real-Time Customer Communication

The way that people communicate with businesses is changing. Gone are the days of customers who will leave detailed voicemails, wait patiently for replies to emails, or search across a restaurant’s websites and social profiles to find answers to their specific questions.

In an age where more and more businesses offer live chat support, customers expect to be able to get answers to their questions in real time, whether they have a question about making a reservation or want to ask about booking a private event. Real-time customer communication isn’t just a nicety, it’s a reasonable request.

A recent poll indicated that 90% of consumers would prefer to text businesses rather than call. And consumers look positively on brands that offer the ability to get quick answers via real-time messaging channels — 77% of people have a positive perception of companies that offer texting as a customer support channel.

In the hyper-competitive restaurant world, providing real-time support to consumers learning about your restaurant is more important than ever. According to a recently OpenTable study, more and more diners are making reservations within 24 hours of arriving at a restaurant, and nearly 30% of customers are searching for restaurants within an hour of their meal.

In short, restaurant guests have an increasing number of ways to discover restaurants, and restaurants that hope to capture customer attention in this ever-shrinking window of discovery need to be able to answer their questions instantly wherever a customer is online.

The Age of Responsiveness

Restaurants are already starting to adapt to this shift. Some of the best restaurants in the world are abandoning landlines in exchange for modern, real-time customer communication via SMS and other digital channels.

It’s not surprising that the largest restaurant discovery platforms in the world, from Facebook and Instagram to Google and Yelp, are actively rolling out tools to let restaurants be active, responsive, and easily messaged on all these platforms. Restaurants’ profile pages on these platforms now clearly show how long it takes for businesses to reply to customers who message them, in an attempt to remove the layer of frustration that comes when a customer reaches out to a business with no idea when or if they’ll ever hear back.

To encourage messaging adoption, platforms like Facebook and Yelp enable the messaging function by default. Showing up as “responds in more than a day” on these platforms where new customers are discovering restaurants can be enough to kill a potential sale right off the bat.

But how can restaurants easily manage customer messages in realtime when more and more major platforms are adding messaging functionality every month? In this article, we’ll outline four simple ways that restaurants can enable messaging without adding headcount, costs, or complex new processes to their existing customer engagement strategy.

1. Google Messaging

More than any other platform, Google is where the most people are learning about restaurants. Sites like OpenTable heavily promote their value as discovery platforms, and Google is no different. Here’s a snapshot from the Google My Business listing for Mezze Bistro, a Guestfriend customer. Nearly 75% of the people who found Mezze on Google were discovering them for the first time, rather than searching for them directly.

Restaurant owners should do everything they can to ensure that those thousands of potential customers can easily get all the info they’re looking for without having to go searching on competitor-laden platforms that are outside of your control.

Google is investing heavily in its Google My Business platform to ensure that customers can easily discover any restaurant, learn everything they could possibly want to know about that restaurant (from exploring a menu to finding out specific details like dress code), and book a table without ever having to leave the Google ecosystem.

For restaurants, the value of this is undeniable — up until now, a diner might discover a restaurant on Google, but if they wanted to explore the menu, make a reservation, or find some other specific detail about the business, they’d need to go offsite to a platform like Yelp or OpenTable to get answers to their questions. And once someone leaves the restaurant’s controlled environment on Google, the chance of them discovering a competitor and deciding to eat there instead goes up significantly.

But how do you let people make reservations, browse your menu, and answer more difficult questions that Google doesn’t support, without making them leave your Google page or call your restaurant?

Solution: Enable messaging on Google

Even if you keep your business info up to date on Google, there are still a lot of things that guests can’t do on Google. Previously, they’d need to go to another site or call your restaurant to do things like make a reservation. That is, until now.

Google now lets you enable Messaging within your GMB account. Currently the only way to enable Messaging on Google and ensure that your guests are receiving real-time replies without any extra work by your team is to use an automated messaging solution (like the one we built at Guestfriend). Connecting a “virtual host” to Google will let your guests get real-time answers to their questions in their preferred messaging format, without forcing them to call your restaurant or go searching for answers off-site.

2. Facebook Messaging

95% of businesses have the “Message Us” button enabled on their Facebook page, but most don’t even realize it. While smaller restaurants may only get a few messages a week from potential diners, large national brands with millions of followers need a plan to answer all of these messages at scale.

From our research, the average response time for restaurants is several hours at best and never in many cases. Based on the fact that more and more diners are making decisions within a few hours of dining, lack of responsiveness is a major reason why restaurants lose customers.

Solution: Enabling messaging on Facebook

Even if your restaurant has a plan in place to periodically reply to customer messages on Facebook, it probably isn’t fast enough. So how do you automate messaging so that customers get intelligent answers to their questions in real time and then only get routed to a real person for complex questions?

Facebook provides a variety of tools to create your own automated replies, but your development team will need to devote extensive resources if you hope to create anything that is even remotely flexible. Alternately, you can build your own solution on a chatbot authoring platform, which can take several months, or use a custom virtual host built specifically for your restaurant, which you can customize and deploy within a few hours.

Solution: Submit Your Business to Facebook Discover

If you have a chatbot or “virtual host” connected to your brand’s Facebook page, then you should be using Facebook Discover. Discover is a product that Facebook launched on Messenger last year, which lets its users easily discover new chatbots that are either relevant to their interests or geographically close to them.

Being featured on Discover opens up your restaurant to an entirely new audience of potential customers. And the best part is that it takes two minutes to submit, and you’ll be one of the only restaurant brands in the world using it! It’s an effortless way to get more people organically discovering your business with no marketing spend required. We wrote more about this here.

3. Automated text messaging

Phones and landlines for restaurants are dying. In most scenarios, when someone tries to call a restaurant, they either go straight to voicemail or get connected to a host during busy hours and can’t hear anything. Any way you slice it, phones for restaurants are largely pointless and archaic, only delivering negative experiences. Texting is the future.

90% of people want to message businesses instead of calling. But outside of enabling messaging on platforms like Google and Facebook, how do you quickly set up the infrastructure to let your guests text an actual phone number and receive real-time replies to their questions?

Solution: Enable automated texting

If you have an automated messaging solution in place, anytime someone texts your restaurant, they’ll get real-time answers and be able to have a natural language conversation with your virtual host, with no work required by your team and full control over the exact responses guests receive.

At Guestfriend, we provide local SMS numbers, automatically connected to your brand’s custom virtual host, that can be promoted on your social media pages, across your website, in your phone voicemail recordings, and more.

4. Voice Platforms

Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana. Every major platform now has a voice-based personal assistant that will give you instant answers to nearly any question. Voice is exploding and it’s going to change the way that people interact with restaurants. Some reports estimate that nearly 50% of searches will be voice by 2020. Search results and search marketing are going to be heavily affected by this shift to voice and Google is actively figuring out how to handle things like SEO in a world dominated by voice searching.

It remains to be seen how restaurants will be able to affect and/or sponsor voice search results, but it seems more and more likely that voice technology will simplify the way people learn about businesses and then allow them to take specific actions. It’s not hard to imagine that in the coming years, you’ll be able to discover, learn about, and book a table at a restaurant within a few seconds, all with your voice.

Conclusion

There’s never been a more exciting time to be involved in the digital customer experience side of the restaurant industry. The tools to engage guests across a huge number of platforms are readily accessible and easy to use, and the shift from an asynchronous customer experience to a real-time one is well underway. And restaurants that are able to leverage these tools to their fullest get to shape what “customer experience” in the modern restaurant world actually looks like.

Every month, more and more platforms roll out messaging features (Google being the most recent and Instagram coming very soon). While the growing number of platforms that customers can use to get in touch with your business might seem daunting, there are finally tools built specifically for the restaurant industry that let you manage and automate customer communication for the first time. And undoubtedly, allowing your customers to get in touch with you in their preferred medium is the best way to differentiate yourself and capture more business.

We mentioned “virtual hosts” several times in this article. To recap briefly, a virtual host (sometimes called a chatbot) is a tool that lets your restaurant interact with your customers in real time across all of your online channels. Most virtual hosts, like the ones we build on our Guestfriend platform, can answer 95% of guest questions instantly, and then seamlessly route guests to your normal customer support channels for specific questions that you identify.


If you’re looking for an automated messaging solution built specifically for your restaurant that lets you handle customer messaging online in a scalable way, check out what we’ve built at Guestfriend. We’d love to chat.

About the Author: Alec McGuffey heads marketing initiatives at GuestFriend, the virtual host built for the restaurant industry.

5 Useful Tools for Every Hospitality Business

It can sometimes feel impossible to keep up with the demands of the day-to-day grind of the hospitality industry, especially because of the fast-paced nature and constant focus on customers. Thankfully there are some great technology tools available that can help ease some of the workload – anything from staff learning and scheduling rosters to taking your menu digital – all to ensure that your days are more productive.

We highlight 5 handy hospitality industry tools you should be using now:

1. 7Shifts

Organizing your team’s roster can often be challenging, particularly when your staff don’t work regular hours. The clever thing with 7Shifts is that their cloud platform allows you to auto-schedule your staff based on their availabilities and create custom templates to suit your business, making it easy to coordinate your team. To take it one step further, you can also use their platform to manage sales and labor costs.

2. Sidekicker

Finding qualified seasonal staff is a common problem in the hospitality industry, where you may just need temporary staff for a one-off event, or a short contracted period. Sidekicker is an on-demand staffing platform that helps resolve this issue. Their database has over 11,000 experienced staff in hospitality, promotions, events, business administration, and retail. Staff profiles are detailed, rated and reviewed so that employers can easily find the right people for the job.

3. Typsy

Learning and upskilling should always be a priority for every hospitality professional, particularly as the industry faces a skills shortage. Typsy’s online learning platform offers hospitality businesses, staff, and schools the ability to assign professional hospitality courses and lessons with their 350+ video library. Users can learn essential industry skills in areas of culinary, beverage, service, marketing, and business. Courses are led by world leading hospitality professionals, including champion baristas, restaurant consultants, restaurateurs, and chefs.

4. ScreenCloud (Digital menu app)

Digital menu signs are beneficial for restaurants with certain concepts. Of course, you probably wouldn’t consider using them in a fine dining establishment, but they work really well in a fast-casual setting. Digital signage is not only aesthetically pleasing, it makes it easy to update information on menu items, discounts, and more.

With ScreenCloud’s menu feature, users can easily create, edit and customize digital menus in real time and manage it remotely for in-store display. Their software is also compatible with plenty of devices, meaning it can be displayed nicely across most screens within venues.

5. Upserve

Having the right point of sale system in your hospitality business is crucial for efficiency and a smooth operation. It’s also important for your POS to be industry-specific in order to ensure it can meet the demands of our industry. There are plenty of point of sale systems out there, but not all are geared toward restaurants and hospitality. Upserve is tailored to the restaurant and hospitality industries. Aside from basic POS functions, Upserve features like mobile payment, marketing tools, inventory control, and more.

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Using online tools in your hospitality business definitely has its benefits –  it’s efficient, saves time and it’s cost effective. By incorporating these tools you’ll increase productivity and have more time for priority areas in your business. Why not give these a shot?


About the Author: Glennise Pinili is the Social Media/Marketing Coordinator at Typsy, which is an online learning platform for hospitality businesses, staff and schools. Their bite-sized video courses help hospitality professionals skill up, serve the world better, and make every hospitality moment exceptional. Learn more at typsy.com, and follow them on FacebookLinkedinInstagram and Twitter.