These are the findings of the European Dining Index from Livebookings, based on interviews with 250 restaurants and aggregated industry data. It found that the restaurant industry, which employs 1.4 million people in the UK, currently receives over £126m worth of new business through online reservations alone.
“Restaurants not making use of online, mobile and social bookings is almost tantamount to adopting a no children policy,” said Colin Tenwick, Livebookings’ chief executive. “They shut themselves off to roughly the same amount of potential business.
“A significant proportion of customers looking for a restaurant start their search online or on mobile. Almost all other consumer-facing sectors, including retail and travel, have radically changed their marketing strategies to respond to that, and now it’s time for all UK restaurants to do the same.”
The growth of the UK mobile and online bookings market for restaurants:
The boom in diners booking online, via PCs and even more so via smartphone devices, is evidenced in statistics revealed in the third Index report. Comparing the first quarter of 2011 with the first quarter of 2012, online restaurant bookings in the UK have doubled, and bookings through mobile devices have almost trebled.
The advantage of a restaurant opening itself up to online bookings is clear: foodservice consultancy Horizons recently found that 14 per cent of online bookings are made outside restaurants’ opening hours, and that 44 per cent are taken during busy service times when restaurant workers find it difficult or are unable to answer the phone.
Livebookings’ bi-annual index of UK restaurants also discovered that staff costs, rent & rates, and food costs are the current three biggest expenditures facing hospitality businesses. Food, beverage and energy costs were also named as the three factors that have most increased restaurants’ overheads in the last six months.
Meanwhile, demand for discounts, recessionary pressures and increasing VAT were said to be the biggest causes for changes to menu prices over the same period.
Tenwick added: “From this data, we can see that the priorities of many restaurants haven’t changed significantly since the 1950s!
“Staff, rent and the price of raw materials are still the major concerns, and restaurants simply don’t have the time or leeway to stand back and consider longer-term trends or changes that could help their businesses to survive the double-dip recession.”
With the emergence of the likes of TripAdvisor and Toptable giving anyone the chance to post reviews of restaurants, hotels and pubs, together with the growth in social networks like Twitter and Facebook, owners of hospitality businesses are finding themselves written about and scrutinised in a way they've never known before.
The results aren't always positive, so how can you monitor and deal with negative publicity? Read our five-part feature to find out.