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Food for Thought

New ideas and advice to help you improve the operation, turnover, and connectivity of your dining sites.

Brand in the Cloud: why restaurant marketers need to protect their online reservations identity

May 26 2016, by Olivia FitzGerald

Avoid getting lost in the din, and make sure your brand shines through!

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Online bookings are huge. You know that already. With the internet a permanent and pervasive part of our lives, customers naturally go there to search, find and reserve tables at your restaurant or pub.

But the web can be crowded and confusing for a prospective diner looking for a place to eat. Searches on Google throw up a plethora of results, and not all of them from restaurants and pubs.

We’re living in the age of the third-party booking app. Many platforms offer a restaurant booking system for venues, while also targeting branding and marketing of their own identity towards consumers.

The result is a fragmented and diluted brand experience, with customers (and their data) not wholly owned by your business. Web traffic is often diverted to third-party websites, and the commission rates charged on bookings cutting into the bottom line.

Why restaurant marketers need to protect their online reservations identity

For any marketing person, it’s a top priority to ensure the brand is perceived prominently and positively. Traditionally, that was simply a question of logo design, press release wording, signage and so on. All things under marketing’s direct control.

 

 

But the internet is a new dimension. With your business represented on numerous external platforms and review sites, it’s harder to keep all messages on-brand. That’s why a restaurant booking system that lets you control your branding and identity is so important.

Brand awareness

We all know consumer attention is a precious commodity, especially in the age of mobile internet and on-the-go browsing that can be interrupted at any moment. Given the limited opportunity to make a lasting impression, your brand should be front and centre throughout the browsing and booking process.

Today, your brand online really is your prime real-estate.

That’s why, when choosing an online restaurant booking system, make sure your venue’s identity won’t be lost. Is the branding of the booking widget and the email communications (booking confirmation etc) all focused on the third party brand itself? If so, you surrender the chance to communicate your brand’s unique style and tone of voice.

Data ownership

Restaurants and pubs are all waking up to the importance of database marketing. Targeted email campaigns, offers and promotions offer a way to reach an already-interested audience of opted-in contacts and previous customers.

A big advantage of online booking is that customers provide their email contact data. But what happens if you can’t get access to that data or, more importantly, if this is used to promote offers that are being run by other brands (even competitors)?

With third-party consumer-facing booking apps, there is a risk that the restaurants and pubs using the platform will not own all the customer data generated. So this is an essential consideration. Will you have ownership and access to all data collected during the bookings process?

Loyalty

It’s an old adage in business that it’s easier to keep the customers you have, than to go out and get new ones. While you certainly should be trying to attract new visitors, building loyalty and repeat traffic is fundamental.

In the online environment, it’s easy for customers to be distracted and fickle. But an undiluted brand presence, combined with effectively using email data to stay in touch regularly, can help you to create a real connection between your business and your customers.

So, help them build to feel loyal to you; not through a third-party restaurant booking platform which, after all, features many of your competitors as well.

Profitability

The link between marketing and profit is never too far from the restaurant marketer’s mind. While in other sectors marketing can afford to be more aloof, in the dining industry margins are tight and everyone must pull their weight.

Your choice of online restaurant booking software can have real and lasting impact on profitability for one simple reason: many apps and platforms charge commission on covers, even those booked through your own website. A system wholly owned by or white-labelled for yourself will not.

How to keep your brand identity strong online

The internet offers fewer opportunities for controlling brand messaging, but one place where pubs and restaurants can make real impact is during the bookings process.

Choose a restaurant booking system that allows you to fully express and promote your brand identity, with communications and data owned by you, for a cohesive and loyalty-building customer experience.

It’s your brand... protect it!

It can take years for pubs and restaurants to build a strong brand reputation, and this is the main reason why a large percentage of your diners will go to your site to book online. They don’t use your website simply because of the booking service: they visit your site because they trust you, and they want to have a direct relationship.

Maintaining this loyalty is a top priority... plus there’s no reason to share your customer data when it’s compiled through your own website!

Key points to remember

  • Controlling brand and messaging online is a challenge, but a white-labelled restaurant booking system allows venues to own the customer experience
  • Owning all the customer data generated through bookings is also essential, as it allows targeted marketing and loyalty-building
  • A marketing decision to promote on a third-party platform can have implications for profitability, if the chosen partner charges commission on bookings
  • Third party services harvest data on each and every booking they generate

 

Topics: Marketing and promotion