By Casey O’Loughlin, Star2Star
Get ready for chocolates, heart-shaped candy, “be mines” and flowers: Valentine’s Day is around the corner. For many couples, that means booking a reservation and heading out for a romantic meal. It’s one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants, but fortunately, unified communications (UC) can help them prepare.
Dining establishments have unique communications needs, with requirements to deal with a high volume of customers at peak times as well as the need to ensure efficient communications among staff members. Here are four ways that UC can help restaurants prepare for the onslaught of romance this February 14:
Better Dining Experiences
For diners, there is nothing that can ruin a dinner more quickly than a server that seems out of his or her element—they don’t know the ins and outs of the promotional Valentine’s Day restaurant specials or prix fixe options, they bring the wrong dish, they can’t offer a wine pairing, or they don’t know when the kitchen has made a substitution. Holidays like Valentine’s Day means introducing new menus and promotions within the space of a week or so, and with an uptick in customer volume, keeping everything straight can become quickly overwhelming.
Cloud-based UC functionality offers a few fixes for these issues. For one, managers can push out new menu information as it comes along in the days leading up to the big night in the form of text alerts with links to resources and waitstaff can use chat features to ask questions. Simple video trainings that users can access on their phones help demonstrate aspects of various menu items ahead of time. The night of, chefs can push out alerts when something runs out or he/she makes a substitution, so menu information is always up-to-date. UC can enable anytime, anywhere access to a central repository of menu and wine-pairing information via any device, so those on the floor can do a quick check of the details when a guest asks.
There’s more to keeping a restaurant on its game than a sharp set of waiters and waitresses. Engineering and maintenance, for instance, keep things humming along—so the ability to quickly track down this set of staff and communicate spills, out-of-order bathrooms, utility outages, appliance issues and more is of tantamount importance. UC with built-in presence management means supervisors can reach the right person, via call, text, chat, video and more, when they need to.
The front-of-house managers are tasked with responding rapidly to guests’ needs, taking care of reservations and wait-list diners, and touching base with visitors as the face of the operation. Instant access to various third-party systems such as reservations and online inquiry portals—and even Facebook, which is an increasingly important guest relations tool for restaurants—and the ability to reach other staff members when needed, are critical for their jobs to be successful.
Restaurants also need to be able to mobilize their staff to respond quickly and efficiently to unforeseen incidents and emergencies. Better collaboration and real-time reach via IM and presence will improve guest and employee safety.
Staff levels are at their peak on holidays like Valentine’s Day, but these are also anomalies. Restaurants need to be able to scale staff resources fluidly, and UC allows managers the use of a full set of collaboration features to communicate with employees about scheduling. For restaurants with more than one location, UC means that employees moving between work locations can access the same work environment tools, data, and applications regardless of where they are. Automatic logging and analytics also help managers keep track of paycheck hours and where individual employees are working that day.
Better Phone Relations
Reservations, take-out orders, and phone calls from prospective guests are a key part of the day-to-day operations of most restaurants, and they become even more important around a high-stakes day like Valentine’s Day. The right phone system—one that lowers costs while helping achieve business goals—can be a critical linchpin for success. A solid UC platform with VoIP call quality allows for good, clear communication when a guest calls in—and also allows for call routing to the right person, without waiting too long on hold. The wrong phone system could result in dropped calls, disgruntled guests, and lower reservation volume; but the right one enhances the ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience and grow the reputation of the establishment.
Our #1 Valentine’s Day Restaurant Tip
According to a survey from Qmatic, 90% of customers would not return a second time to an establishment where they had just one bad experience. On the flip side, good experiences lead to repeat business; increasing repeat customers by just 5% leads to profitability increases of up to 125%. So, whether it’s Valentine’s Day or just Tuesday, implementing UC is a solid love letter to your restaurant, because the stakes are high year-round.