Friday, June 24, 2016

Understanding call ahead/priority seating at restaurants

You might have called a restaurant asking to make a reservation only to be told that they do not take them. Many will tell you that they offer Call Ahead or Priority Seating instead. 

Typically Call Ahead just means you call to put your name on the waitlist. You call when you are about to leave for the restaurant and tell them you will be there in 20 minutes, please put your name down on the waitlist. It does not mean the table will be ready for you, it just means you will spend less time sitting in the waiting area because your name will already have saved your place in line for you.

Several situations could take place. For instance, you call and say you will be there in 20 minutes, but the current waitlist estimate at the restaurant is 45 minutes. That means you just have to sit in the waiting area for approximately 25 minutes instead of the full 45. 

Or you could say you'll be there in 10 minutes and there is an accident, so it actually takes you 30 minutes to arrive. Your name might now be at the top of the list, but the host keeps seating other parties until you arrive and then you get the next table that comes available. 

Why do restaurants use Call Ahead seating? Typically it is because they are so busy that they don't want to turn anyone away. Many times restaurants have issues with taking reservations because of no-shows, incorrect reservations, or people who try to game the system by making multiple reservations. This can lead to tables sitting vacant waiting for the reservation party to show up when a restaurant could be making money by seating a party that's already there.

While patrons might see Call Ahead seating as an inconvenience, it's really a compromise between the restaurant and patrons. Restaurants fill tables and patrons have less waiting time.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why won't they seat me when there are empty tables?

It's a familiar scenario. You arrive at a restaurant where there are people waiting to be seated, but when you look in the dining room, you see there are quite a few empty tables. What gives?

It boils down to restaurant dynamics and a number of factors. 

It may not seem like it to the general public, but busy restaurants have a plan. That plan takes into account several things, including table sizes, servers, table turn times, pacing, and reservations. 

Table sizes. You see a table that seats four. The restaurant sees a table that they have labeled to seat 3-5 people and one that, if necessary, can be pushed together with the one beside it to seat a larger party. So while your party of two sees it as a place where you can sit, the restaurant might have other plans for that table.

Servers have been predetermined to be able to handle a certain number of tables. If a server has too many tables, your quality of service goes down. They could be rushed and flustered or they could be overwhelmed and you are left angry and impatient wondering why your table is being ignored. If there are not enough servers on duty, then sections of the restaurant could be left empty until more servers are added. 

Table turn times are the amount of time that is estimated for a party to sit at a table, finish a meal, vacate and leave the table ready for the next table. Every table size is calculated differently. During a weekday lunch tables have faster turn times because it's assumed everyone needs to keep to an hour lunch. But a 2-top table might only take 40 minutes to turn while a 6-top will take 60 minutes. At dinner that 2-top might take 75 minutes while the 6-top takes 90. It all becomes sort of a math equation of calculating what tables will be available when.

Pacing is a time calculation that also ensures that you aren't stuck impatiently waiting for your server or your food to show up at your table. Pacing is how many people or tables can be handled by the servers and the kitchen during an interval, usually 15 minute intervals. An easy example is when a restaurant first opens its doors, maybe for Sunday brunch. They have 20 tables, but there are already 30 parties out waiting. If they sat all 20 tables immediately and then the kitchen got slammed with 50 orders all at once, the quality of food would suffer, you'd be waiting for your food, and the rest of the morning's pace would be messed up. Instead that restaurant might seat a third of the tables, wait 10-15 minutes to seat another 1/3, and then finally seat the last third. This spreads the tables out for the servers and the kitchen in such a way that is manageable.

Then there are the reservations. If a restaurant takes reservations they have to keep tables open for them. They also have to factor them into their calculations of turn times and pacing. Yes, reservations have priority over waitlist because they took the time to plan ahead. Thus, they are rewarded with a table being ready.

As you can see, there are a lot of components to the restaurant's plan of operation. The key to remember is that the plan is meant for the customer — to provide the best experience for you after you take a seat at the table with proper attention, service, and food. Messing with the plan could result in a bad dining experience for you where you leave angry and/or disappointed. Allow restaurants to keep to their plan. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Understanding restaurant awards/rankings when choosing where to dine

Michelin Stars, James Beard Awards, AAA Diamond ratings. Restaurants get rated and awarded by multiple services and organizations. How are these recognitions given and do they matter? Should a diner care about certain ratings when making their dining decisions? 

There are two important factors that should be noted when giving credence to awards and ratings - who is doing the judging and are all restaurants in consideration?

The two most revered awards for restaurants around the world are the Michelin Star and the James Beard Award. These two are given to restaurants exhibiting excellent service, food, and overall experience. While definitely the most important and prestigious awards to always make note of, probably 99% of average Americans will never dine at these awarded restaurants. These two awards are on a level all their own.

For those restaurants that the Average Joe/Joanne does dine at, there are plenty of awards that get posted on restaurant websites as bragging rights.

Which restaurants are getting reviewed? There are many websites and apps that let the public rate and review any and every restaurant. Therefore, an award from these sites signifies the most popular of all restaurants in a city or region.

There are some sites that only rate and award their own clients and not all restaurants in a city. A restaurant might get #1 in Topeka, for instance, but it really only represents #1 of the restaurants that are a client and not really #1 of all restaurants in Topeka. If the site only has 20 clients in the city, then #1 of 20 is not such a big deal compared to #1 of the 1000 restaurants in the city. This confuses the public if they are unaware of the exclusivity of the award system to begin with.

And who is doing the judging? It's either experts or it's the general public. Experts have their own rating systems and guidelines that they must adhere to. Experts are professionals in the field in some fashion as critic, chef, restaurateur, etc. If you are looking for quality in all areas, then you'll have a high regard for rating systems judged by experts. 

That's not to downplay the general public. After all, the votes of the masses have to count for a general appeal. The difference from expert judging is that the public often only judges on whether they liked it or not with less value on quality. After all, there is a huge disparity of expertise within the general public. That said, many people take stock in a high rating by a majority of people.

Choosing which awards to assist your decision making is all based on personal preference, of course. Whether you hold more value in expertise or the consensus of the masses is important, but also realize that some awards are judged based on only a small sample of restaurants instead of all of them. When using a site or an app to search for a restaurant, you may be better off using one that doesn't limit your options to only a small number of clients. 

Presented by Guest Innovations. Rezku is a restaurant search app for your smartphone.

Be sure to check out our affordable hospitality products WaitkuSendku,RezkuPrime, and RezkuTablet.

Monday, March 21, 2016

8 tips for making reservations at restaurants

These days it can take some planning if you want to dine out at your favorite restaurant. If it is a restaurant that does not take reservations, you need to plan for putting your name on a waiting list and how long you are willing to wait. If you are going to a restaurant that does take reservations, then there are steps that can be taken to ensure the process is helpful to both you and the restaurant.

Plan well in advance
If it is going to be the first time that you are going to a particular restaurant, then it pays to do some research. Whether it's from reviews in the paper, talking with friends that have gone there themselves, or calling the restaurant directly, find out how busy the restaurant is and what their peak times are. Also important, how far in advance you need to make the reservation. Some are same day, but popular restaurants can have waiting lists or are booked out weeks or months in advance. 

Use technology
Many restaurants have the ability to take reservations via their website, mobile app, or Facebook. Some apps, such as Rezku, even allow you to pay by phone, allowing you to leave the restaurant as soon as you are done without the delay of payment processing. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes the apps will say there are no tables available because restaurants hold some back for walk-in customers.

Call directly
That's when you call. If you aren't able to see a time available on the app, call and try to make the reservation by phone. Oftentimes the old fashioned phone call is more successful. Just be courteous as you will get a better result with honey than with vinegar.

Be willing to go at off-peak times
If your time is not available, ask about earlier or later times. Nowadays there are even apps that help restaurants book unpopular time slots by allowing them to offer discounts or freebies. You might be able to save money on your bill by going at one of these special times.

Supply both your email and your cellphone number
Today's technology allows restaurants to communicate with their customers via a variety of ways. To make sure you are always getting the latest news regarding your reservation, whether it be a confirmation or a reminder, give both your cellphone number (for text messages) and your email address. 

Don't lie
Don't lie about such things as the number of your party or making out that you are some VIP. A common trick is to call in for a large party table and then say friends cancelled at the last minute. Restaurants have their tables and nights completely scheduled out and such things can really disrupt service for the entire restaurant and irritate the staff. 

Keep them notified
Restaurants now keep notes and statistics on every guest. They can keep track of how many times you've visited, cancelled, been a no-show, or even were an unruly guest. If your plans change, you are running late, or need to cancel, be sure to call them and let them know. It's better to have nice notes on your profile than bad ones.

Be understanding
When you arrive at the restaurant you may have to wait past your reservation time. While restaurants try to plan based on expected table durations, other guests might take longer than the restaurant planned. The fact is, they can't seat you without a vacant table. Being patient and understanding will get you farther and you could be rewarded by an appetizer or dessert on the house.

It should not be difficult to get a reservation as long as you plan and are courteous to a restaurant. 

Presented by Guest Innovations. Be sure to check out our affordable hospitality products RezkuWaitkuSendku,RezkuPrime, and RezkuTablet.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tech savvy ways diners pay for their meals

If you are a tech savvy diner, then you might already be using your smartphone to get the food you want when you get hungry. Today's diners are ordering food for pickup, having meals delivered, making reservations, and now for paying at the table. 

Tableside kiosks
Rezku app

You might have dined recently at a major restaurant chain and been surprised to find a tablet device mounted right at the table. Larger chains such as Applebee's, Chili's, and Chevy's have all tried tablets at tables but are now pulling away from them. Table tablets let the customer view their bill, swipe their credit card to pay, and then leave without having to wait for a server. While still viable, many restaurants are seeing the savings of letting customers use their own smartphones versus the restaurant paying for table tablets. 

Pay-at-table apps

What is becoming even more popular among consumers are the PAT apps. There's been an onslaught of them on the market recently.  Most of these apps store the customers' credit cards within the app itself.

Again, there are variations. One method is via reservation apps. A customer makes a reservation at a restaurant that is served by the reservation app. They arrive, dine, and then get up and leave. These apps most often have a default gratuity set in them of 15-25% so that the tipping is automatic as well. There are also walk-in apps where a customer doesn't need a reservation, they can just go to a restaurant that accepts the app. 

Another variation is via credit card or payment service applications themselves. Some provide that the customer must make their presence known to the restaurant and let them know that they will be paying via the app, while others use beacon technology where a beacon at the entrance recognizes your phone immediately and notifies the establishment.

The Rezku app does all the above. It allows you to search for restaurants in your area, make reservations, and pay at table. It recognizes the diner via scheduled reservations as well as using beacon technology. All of this is taking place on the diner's smartphone. 

What is clear is that Pay-at-table is becoming more popular and one of the technology trends that appears to be sticking. For the diner technology means a matter of convenience and with the Rezku app you get searching, reservations, and payment all in one. 

Presented by Guest Innovations. Be sure to check out our affordable hospitality products RezkuWaitkuSendku,RezkuPrime, and RezkuTablet.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Rezku smartphone app - find and reserve restaurants

Every day consumers download apps to their smartphones. Some they use regularly and are kept. Some are tried out and then uninstalled. The most successful smartphone apps for businesses need to do several things in order to keep and attract users. 

For customers the app needs to accomplish two things. It needs to be both beautiful and functional. The app has to be attractive so that it looks like it took time and thought to lay out versus something thrown quickly together. Once it's grabbed attention by sight, it needs to follow through with functionality. Is it intuitive and easy to navigate? Can people find what it is they are looking for?

We believe the new Rezku app does both. 

The new Rezku app is a new restaurant search app that covers restaurants across the United States. It works based on your location, but you can also change locations to search in other cities. You can also search by cuisine, such as Chinese or Southern. Restaurants that take reservations using the app are always at the top.

Once you've selected a restaurant you can delve into the profile. Each profile has photos of food or the restaurant if they are available. The address, map, phone number are easy to find. Scroll down and you will find all the amenities such as cuisine, hours, parking information, etc. Finally, there is the ability to make reservations for certain restaurants.

You can tell if a restaurant is currently open by the background picture on their listing. Looking above, Plan B is dark because it was closed at the time of this screen shot. But Fabian's was open. 

Another feature for those restaurants that have the reservation feature is the waitlist time. If a customer is put on the waitlist with a quote of 20 minutes (as in the photos above), then the app shows a countdown clock on the app, giving you the ability to take a walk or go shopping until closer to your wait time. 

We already have future updates in mind to make the app more interactive. Stay tuned! 

Presented by Guest Innovations. Be sure to check out our affordable hospitality products RezkuWaitkuSendku, RezkuPrime, and RezkuTablet.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours

Farrells_1963menufront_smallFor over 60 years  Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours has been loudly celebrating birthdays for several generations of children.

My first memory of  Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours was in 1983. I had just arrived in Virginia to attend boarding school after having lived overseas for most of my life. I remember the staff running through the restaurant delivering one of the famous "Zoo" sundaes to a birthday party. The ice cream was mounded high in the huge bowl and the noise level was deadening. After a rather sober life overseas, this cacophony and exuberance were surprising and exhilarating.
Memories and nostalgia are a big part of Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours.  For the company, they use their 1890s decor and costumes to whisk you to a bygone era. For patrons the nostalgia is more potent. Specific memories can easily be triggered simply by the sound of the player piano or the sight of a heaping sundae being set down before them.  Memories transport people back to happy times with family and friends, celebrating special events. It might have been a birthday, a promotion, a new baby, or just because.
Traveling down memory lane, it was 1963 when the first Farrell's was opened in Portland, Oregon. Robert "Bob" Farrell opened up a restaurant which took you farther back in time to the late 1800s with period costumes, a player piano, and an old fashioned soda fountain. He also used his own nostalgic memories of the New York delicatessens and corner candy shops  from his childhood.
The idea was for Farrell's to be a place for celebrations, a family restaurant with simple favorites like burgers and sandwiches, but with a focus on sweet treats as a tasty reward for that special occasion. The soda fountain and the fancy sundaes have always been the stars with more even sweets at the candy store to tempt one's sweet tooth with a treat to-go.
Good customer service and a lively, fun atmosphere are what led to Farrell's early success. So much so that by the mid 1970s there were 130 locations nationwide.  But the company changed hands several times and in the 80s and  the 90s the count slowly declined until Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours had all but disappeared.
Farrell's are slowly making a comeback, thanks to nostalgia. Now owned by Parlour Enterprises in Southern California, it is happy memories that brought new life to the brand.
Parlour Enterprises CEO Mike Fleming would go with his buddies to his local Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour after his high school football games. It was the perfect place to celebrate another victory and he treasured those memories. Meanwhile, Paul Kramer, President of Parlour Enerprises, also remembered back to the age of 7 when he tried to eat the Pig's Trough to match his two elder brothers. He wanted the ribbon and the recognition that he was just like them.
It was their childhood memories that united them in bringing back Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours the way they remembered them - lively and fun, complete with costumes, candy store, piano, sirens, and drums.  It's also what brings back a new generation of customers.
vintage_Farrell's - rezkuMANY MEMORIES
Rachel thinks of the candy store fondly. "You would walk in to a wonderland of candy and treats and I just remember thinking - what can I get?!"
"I remember going to the (Farrell's) at Sunrise Mall," says Paul.  "It was all big windows, kind of like a solarium, so that as you walked by you could see all this fun and activity going on inside. It made you want to go in and be a part of it."
Eduardo remembers, "I worked at the one at Tysons Corner (VA). I remember the shoes melting in the dishroom, having to go from there straight to the freezer (what fun), having an apron covered in every flavor of ice cream and being told to run a Zoo around the parlour. Still had great fun as it was the first job and first paycheck."
Mark is now working at the soda fountain at the new Sacramento Farrell's. He pulls out a Pig's Trough and explains that it is basically a double banana split. "I was about 7 and we came for my birthday," Mark says. "My dad let me order the Pig's Trough even though it was too much for me. He helped me eat it.  If you are able to finish it, you have to sing the Piggie song and you get a ribbon. That's my best memory." And now Mark is making Pig's Troughs for the next generation.
Farrell's today
It's due to Parlour Enterprises keeping the familiar ingredients of fun, food, and nostalgia that have brought Farrell's Ice Cream Parlours back to life.  It is the ability to keep making endless happy memories that will keep Farrell's thriving into the future for generations to come.
Photos courtesy of
Presented by Guest Innovations. Be sure to check out our affordable hospitality products RezkuWaitkuSendku, and Dinnerwire.