With the discount used over 64 million times in the first three weeks and restaurants full to capacity Monday-Wednesday it’s safe to say that on the whole the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been a success. But, with the discount drawing to a close many restaurants and cafes are concerned about a potential lull in bookings during September and beyond. With this in mind, we’re taking a look at some easy to implement, cost-effective ways restaurants can maintain increased table bookings long after the success of Eat Out To Help Out.
Offer A Discount
It may be a simplistic one to start with but ultimately the main hook of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme was the 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks, up to £10 per person. At a time when the majority of the country have felt the financial hit of the COVID-19 lockdown, money off restaurants and cafes was a great incentive to get people eating out and, thanks to the government reimbursement, restaurants didn’t lose any income but rather saw an increase in bookings Monday-Wednesday.
In fact, such was the success of EOTHO, some restaurants are already saying they will continue the scheme (self-funded) throughout September. While a 50% discount may not be cost-effective for some restaurants, offering a smaller discount on selected days, preferably those that are usually quieter such as mid-week, is a great way to get diners through the door. So whether you offer 2-4-1 on cocktails, a 3 course offer or 10% off on selected days, you’re sure to reap what you sow when it comes to restaurant offers. If you need a bit of offers inspiration check out the offers section on Sugarvine.com to see what other restaurants are up to.
A diner perk doesn’t always have to be a discount: loyalty schemes are also a great way to increase table bookings.
By offering diners a reward of some kind for return visits to your venue you encourage their repeat custom thus boosting your bookings and profits whilst also making diners feel valued and increasingly more positive towards your venue. Diners are also more likely to recommend your venue to friends or family if there’s a nice little perk for them to shout about.
The Water Rat and its sister venue The White Hart, both located in Ironbridge, have recently launched their very own loyalty scheme. Everytime you dine at one of their venues they will stamp your card. A full card earns you a £50 gift voucher to spend with them. A scheme like this not only encourages repeat bookings but also ensure the money you invest as a reward is coming straight back to you! Don’t forget that many are keen to support local businesses and the hospitality industry in particular following COVID-19, so you may be surprised at how far a loyalty scheme such as this goes.
Simple Booking System
Restaurants were so busy during Eat Out To Help Out that booking was a necessity in almost every venue. Rather than sitting on the phone repeatedly trying to get through diners want an instant online booking system to book their favourite restaurant. Likewise, with track and trace, social distancing and increased bookings to handle, restaurants don’t have the time or resources to be manning permanently manning the phones.
Having a simple online booking system, such as Sugarvine Tables, ensures that diners can book your restaurant whenever and wherever they want, whether it be on social media, your Google My Business, through Sugarvine.com or your own website. That way, they won’t turn away and try somewhere else because they can’t get hold of you, thus increasing your bookings. Meanwhile, restaurants can plan and account for the number of diners each night, allocating resources appropriately and saving valuable time replying to booking enquiries.
A Mutual Agreement
The Eat Out To Help Out scheme was so fantastic because it benefited both diners and restaurateurs. Diners got money off a delicious meal out after months in lockdown, while restaurants saw increased table bookings mid week: win-win!
The key to maintaining this increase in table bookings is to keep up the ‘all in this together’ mentality. Whether it’s giving back to diners with a discount or loyalty scheme or making your social distancing and safety measures crystal clear at the point of booking to reassure wary diners, a little cooperation goes a long way to increasing restaurant bookings and encouraging repeat bookings. But, this is a two way street…
COVID-19 has shone a light on the importance of small, local businesses, especially within the hospitality industry. Thus, diners are keen to support local venues and continue to ‘eat out to help out’. By showing your commitment to them through discounts, loyalty schemes, simple booking systems and being transparent regarding COVID safety measures, diners will be encouraged to support you in return, thus further increasing your bookings as well as your reputation and customer loyalty.