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How a new bookings trend is sweeping the industry

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For too long, bars, pubs and casual dining restaurants have relied on the use of paper diaries and basic enquiry forms to confirm reservations; having to take deposits over the phone by scribbling down card details, and manually printing off and scanning pre-order forms to complete the process. Managers have had to fully trust their staff to deliver a premium, albeit labour-intensive pre-booking service.

Times have changed. Customers no longer want to risk being crammed at the bar with their bags between their legs, nor do they want to give card details over the phone, and crucially, don’t want to deal with a heap of paperwork to get booked into a venue. With the apparent “Uberisation” of the world, customers expect a seamless, easy process every time they plan to go out.

DesignMyNight​ launched six years ago with a focus on London’s bar industry. Three years after launch, they worked with industry partners to develop a booking system to cater for the market’s ever-changing needs. The bar and casual-dining industry work very differently from the restaurant industry; there are the concepts of enquiry management, multiple bookings on single tables, pre-orders and deposits, as well as the standard real-time bookings capability that the restaurant systems offer. After a 15-month build Collins​ was born; a booking system truly designed for the needs of the wet-led and casual-dining market.

The success of the launch was also driven by a change in user behaviour, with the concept of booking into bars and casual-dining restaurants becoming more commonplace. Faye, sales manager at CG Restaurants, who own the fast-growing Dirty Martini chain, recognises the importance of pre-booked business into their bars.

“Pre-booked business equates up to 45 per cent of overall sales and increases to 61 per cent during the Christmas period. We have an in-house sales and reservations team who focus on converting hundreds of enquiries each week, for all our venues.

Since implementing Collins we have seen a dramatic lift in conversion rates and are able to provide a simple and effective way for our customers to enquire and book online.”

Early adopters of Collins found that in-coming enquiries were up, conversions were up and efficiency increased. The system’s ROI was clear to see and news spreads quickly across the industry.

This shift in customer expectations and operational behaviour has been apparent in the pub industry too. Emma, marketing and events manager for Young’s Pubs and Geronimo Inns, notes that British pubs are also changing and constantly advancing.

“At Young's and Geronimo we have had a focus on private parties and events for the last five years, driving sales growth year-on-year.

Having the tools to manage this in the pubs and offer our customers top-level service in the pre-booking phase is of paramount importance. We considered various systems, but quickly concluded that Collins was the only tool on the market to cater for everything we need. We're truly excited to push our pubs onto the next level and impress our customers even more."

As well as pubs and bars benefiting from formalising their pre-booking and enquiry process there are a new wave of restaurants that may have a bookable bar too, may look to take a lot of group party enquiries, and/or are likely to create bespoke occasions for their diners. For these venues the enquiry management linked with online pre-ordering and payment sits perfectly with their requirements.

Anthony, group sales and marketing manager of London group Maxwell’s has also experienced first-hand the versatility Collins can provide: "Maxwell’s has a varied portfolio of brasseries, restaurants and casual dining establishments. We are seeing great growth in our casual dining sector whether it be Joe's Southern Table that have two restaurants with bookable and busy bars, or Roadhouse, the Covent Garden icon that offers group dining, drinking and partying all under one roof.

Millennials are definitely seeking venues that offer them a multi-faceted experience and a seamless, hassle-free journey must start from the minute they make the initial enquiry. Having a system where every facet of our booking and enquiry processes are combined, and modernised, has been hugely beneficial to our conversions and customer retention.”

So what is the future of this pre-booked market? The bookable bar and casual dining market is only going to keep growing. Not only across the UK but into other major global cities, and then beyond into smaller localities. We are at the start of this revolution and the upside is on the scale of the bookable restaurant market. Consumers are already there and willing, it just takes the industry to see this opportunity too. We need to persuade them to throw away their paper diaries or pure-play restaurant systems and take the leap to something more modern, with a ‘global’ perspective on their business.

More about Collins by DesignMyNight:

Launched just two-and-a-half-years-ago, Collins was developed by the in-house team at DesignMyNight with other venue partners in the industry. Its main goal was to cater for the bar, pub and non white-table cloth restaurant market. A system to manage enquiries, real-time bookings, deposits, pre-orders, email management, data and more, all packaged into one affordable system. There should be no need to have four different systems to cater for everything related to bookings and enquiries.

Collins now services over 900 clients in the UK and Ireland, and has another 500+ in the immediate pipeline. They work with huge national groups such as Fuller’s and Young’s, the best independents like Purl, Callooh Callay and Nightjar, as well as casual dining groups such as Wahaca, Ping Pong, ETM and Dirty Bones. The huge positive is that operations of all different shapes and sizes have seen the benefit of formalising their booking and enquiry process, and capitalising on the desire for their clients to be handled in a more professional manner.

A forward-thinking, London-made, booking and enquiry management solution for this ever-growing industry, that itself is constantly evolving: Collins customers have enjoyed over 400 improvements being added for free, into the system since launch, constantly pushing the boundaries of what is expected in a system.

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