Do you take reservations for the bar in your restaurant? If not, it may be time to start. According to a new survey from OpenTable, offering reservations for bar dining has many potential benefits including added seating, faster turnaround times and, for a specific type of guest, increased hospitality.
In late May, OpenTable launched Table Categories, a pilot program that allows users to book bar reservations at a handful of participating restaurants in Chicago. As OpenTable’s Eli Chait, this was a response to internal company data showing that bar dining options are underutilized at many restaurants.
“We estimate that non-standard seating options like bar, communal tables, and high-tops make up 12 to 15 percent of restaurant inventory in the U.S. These seats are typically empty or highly coveted, as some diners actually prefer a seat in the center of the action.”
In order to establish some bar dining benchmarks, and to kick off their Insider Survey Series, OpenTable polled 420 restaurant partners, of which 62% were casual fine dining, 31% full-service casual, 12% formal dining establishments.
Here are the survey key findings:
- 36% of respondents are already accept dining reservations in their bars and 12% are interested in doing so.
- 52% report that the bar generates the same amount or more revenue than that of the dining room.
- 54% say that the average turnaround time in the bar is under 60 minutes.
- 85% agreed with the statement, “Investing in my bar area increased my restaurant’s profitability.”
So, what’s the main advantage of offering bar reservations? As BonAppetit‘s Sam Dean explains, it all comes down to having the flexibility to seat more guests.
“Solo diners can drop in without having to hog a two-top, and a friendly word from a bartender can free up enough space at the bar for a whole new party—after all, you can’t exactly ask a couple to slide down to the next booth in the middle of their meal.”
However, skeptics remain, fearing that bar reservations may compromise customer service and guest experience. In response, OpenTable says that implementing this practice satisfies another type of clientele that prefers the bar scene.
“Offering bar seats to guests who are thrilled to book them means those diners get the experience they desire—and seats stay occupied all night.”
And, yes, for the customers that like to get their names in the book but would rather sit at the bar, this is definitely the case. But what about those that prefer the bar precisely because it doesn’t require a reservation? They probably wouldn’t be too pleased.
All in all, it really comes down to the establishment and its clientele. That said, with the right conditions, allowing customers to book the bar could mean more money in the register.
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