How smartphones are replacing the walk-in diner
20 June, 2012
The smartphone is now an extension of your restaurant window, say David Miller and Magnus Hultberg
We are spending more time than ever with our heads down, enthralled by the pretty pictures on a 5cm by 7cm screen. But how is this behaviour changing the way diners interact with restaurants? Simply put, diners are losing their voices.
Would you make the effort to leave the warmth of a cosy pub you are in with a group of friends to see if there is a table free in a nearby restaurant, when you can swipe, point and pinch your way to the answer on your smartphone or tablet while sipping your drink? We wouldn’t. And according to current trends seen in consumer behaviour, trends that we at Livebookings are uniquely positioned to analyse in real time across the whole of UK, a lot of people already tend to agree.
No longer is the smartphone just a way to check in, to like, to tweet, pin or instagram pictures of the food in restaurants. Smartphones are increasingly being used before arriving at the restaurant to browse the menu, read reviews, search for nearby bars for a pre-drink and book the restaurant online.
This is not new or groundbreaking and the trend has been growing for quite a while. What is becoming apparent is that the time between searching for a restaurant, booking it, and dining, is shrinking. Are restaurants properly accommodating the mobile diner of today, particularly the last-minute booker?
One well-known restaurant chain gets 50% of its online bookings for later the same day. Restaurants increasingly need to ensure that their free tables are available to be booked throughout service, in real time, in order to capture those last-minute diners using their phones to find a place to eat. Shutting online reservations off just before a shift starts means turning customers away to your competition.
In this sense the smartphone is an extension of your restaurant window. Perhaps it is even fair to say that last-minute mobile reservations are the new walk-in. Already, 15% of all online bookings generated by Livebookings are from mobile devices and this is forecast to grow to 25% by the end of this year.
When a diner down the road is looking to book a restaurant nearby will they see your restaurant open and ready for business or do your website and online profile show you as closed or full? The diner of today expects the online profile of a restaurant to be “live” and a reflection of what is available now.
Livebookings’ figures show that the majority of bookings via a desktop browser are between 10am and 1pm; in the case of bookings made on a mobile browser (which see a significant increase over the weekend) this time switches to 6pm to 9pm, as people are on the move looking for places to dine there and then.
These different booking patterns cut across demographics, and it is essential that restaurants capture and manage this data effectively for future marketing strategies. Why send a last-minute email offer to bolster a quiet dinner session to those that book via a desktop and have a history of booking a week in advance when you can drop a text to a mobile booker with a history of booking last-minute!
Booking data reveals a lot about individual customers, especially for multi-site operators. Different booking patterns for weekdays and weekends, only ever booking for a la carte and never any offers, only ever booking pre-theatre menus, frequent reservations at that child friendly place on the South Bank... using this data to tailor your marketing communication can significantly increase success in bringing customers back for a repeat visit, while keeping the marketing sufficiently relevant for your customers to feel that you know what they want.
Through online reservations, there is a great opportunity to create a feedback loop between your operations and your marketing, allowing you to capitalise on the fact that the walk-in diners of today are spontaneous, last minute and their tool of choice is the smartphone.
Facts and figures
* Restaurant searches online are up 17% YoY (Google, March 2012)
* Over a quarter of adults and nearly half of all teens now own a smartphone in the UK; of these 37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teens are “highly addicted’” to them (Ofcom, August 2011)
* Germany has experienced the greatest mobile boom in Europe, with online mobile reservations up almost fourfold compared with late 2010 (Livebookings, November 2011)
* During the next 5 years m-commerce will enjoy growth of 55%, the fastest of any retail channel (Barclays Corporate, October 2011)
* By 2013 more people will use mobile phones than PCs to get online (Google GoMo November 2011)
* For online-only retailers, a mobile site can almost double consumer engagement (Kissmetrics, October 2011)
Visit www.ourmobileplanet.com to get a true understanding of the use of smartphones around the world.
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