Top 6 Online Reservation Systems For Restaurants & Cafes

December 28, 2020

Table of Contents

Let’s kick this one off with a statement that most of us can agree with:

The food service industry has it tough. 

From chefs all the way down to servers, stress levels are often very high in restaurants and cafes. Orders need to go out in a timely fashion. Customer expectations need to be managed. Piles of behind the scenes tasks that need to be completed, from cleaning all the way to staff management and scheduling. It seemingly never ends.

top-6-online-reservation-systems-for-restaurants-and-cafes

 

Not to mention our current pandemic situation which has all but crippled restaurants and cafes around the world. As the days go on, more restrictions and guidelines are implemented that food service staff need to not only be aware of but also enforce. Distancing and contactless methods of handling patrons have become the new norm. 

The question is, how can you better manage your restaurant reservations amidst all of this chaos?

Implementing an online reservation system is the answer. 

Here’s the problem though: a Google search for “online reservation system” will likely pull up an unfathomable number of options for you to choose from. Chances are you’ll end up with decision paralysis trying to choose the perfect one for your restaurant or cafe. 

Lucky for you, we’re here with a list of the 6 best options on the market to help you narrow down your choices. 

Now, for those who are wondering what exactly constitutes an online reservation system, perhaps a short explanation is in order.

What is an Online Reservation System?

When you read the words “online reservation system”, it seems pretty self-explanatory, doesn’t it? A reservation system that is accessible online. 

The main focus of an online reservation system is to give patrons a way to book a reservation without ever having to step foot into your establishment or place a phone call. 

The question is, what other benefits can you get from an online reservation system?

No More Overbooking

Taking manual reservations can be a nightmare. With how busy restaurants can be, it’s easy to make a mistake and overbook reservations. When this happens, not only will stress levels hit the roof, but customer perception of your establishment will end up in the toilet. This eventually leads to loss of revenue thanks to a negative outlook on your business.

Thankfully, with an online reservation system, you can avoid this problem altogether. The software simply won’t allow you to book past your limit. Once tables are all taken up, customers won’t be able to book reservations until the next available time. 

24/7 Reservation Booking24-7-reservation-booking

 

With up to 10% of the population working completely irregular and unpredictable hours, businesses across all industries are embracing the idea of 24/7 booking. Even DMV’s and hair salons have come around to it. 

Restaurants are no different. Being able to make a reservation as soon as it pops into a customer’s head goes a long way towards increasing your overall bookings. Customers will thank you for increasing your accessibility. 

Efficiency

Restaurant reservations are often made by phone. When that happens, someone on staff has to take up to 5 minutes out of their day to record the reservation. 

While 5 minutes might not seem like much in other industries, it can feel like an eternity during the busy hours in a restaurant. With orders piling up and customers to handle, having to answer the phone over and over to pencil in reservations is problematic, to say the least.

With an online reservation system, customers can book their own reservations, which literally eliminates an entire task. No more interruptions. Your busiest times can go on without a hitch. 

As you can see, the benefits of online reservation systems make them far more effective than their pen-and-paper counterparts, which come with a host of problems

 

Traditional Reservation System (Pen and Paper, Excel Sheet, Etc.)

Online Reservation System

Easy to make mistakes and overbook, causing chaos on the restaurant floor

The software doesn’t allow overbooking

Limited to restaurant hours

24/7 booking promotes increased accessibility

Inefficient and requires staff to handle reservations at all times

Self-booking means you eliminate an entire task and staff can focus on customers

Skip to the List

We understand if you’re pressed for time. After all, when aren’t food service employees and management pressed for time?!

For those who are just looking for options and aren’t interested in the specific criteria we used for evaluation, here’s our list of the best online reservation systems:

  1. Skiplino Lite
  2. Eat App
  3. Wisely
  4. OpenTable
  5. Yelp Reservations
  6. Zomato Book

How We Evaluated Online Reservation Systems

how-we-evaluate-online-reservation-systems

 

So, now that you’re well-versed in what online reservation systems are all about, let’s talk about what we looked for and what we considered when choosing the best of the best. 

Price

To be fair, price is something that should be considered when purchasing anything. Not just software. 

With online reservation systems, it’s not necessarily about choosing the cheapest one. It’s about getting the best value or ROI. Certain online reservation systems may cost more than others, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. There could be some features or functionality that makes the higher price tag worth it. 

Ease of Use

Look, we’ve already gone to great lengths talking about just how busy and stressed restaurant and cafe workers can get when the tables are full. It’s for this reason that a great online reservation system needs to be easy to use. That goes for both staff and customers. 

For staff, an easy to use online reservation system means that they won’t have to worry about a learning curve during the busiest times. Fighting with unintuitive software while dealing with customers isn’t exactly ideal.

For customers, if the booking portion of your online reservation system is tough to use, they might just move on to one of your competitors.

Calendar Functionality

Obviously, when you’re dealing with a scheduler of any kind, the calendar is the core aspect. An online reservation system is no different.

What’s important is that the calendar functionality is flexible to your specific needs. Basically, the calendar needs to be able to do precisely what you need it to do. 

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Features

CRM features aren’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when discussing online reservation systems. Thing is, the customer relationship is more important than ever in the food service industry. If you’re going to cultivate a loyal customer base, you’ll want to gain as much insight into your clientele as possible.

Some valuable CRM features include:

  • Customer demographics
  • Automated customer reporting
  • Feedback surveys
  • Follow up emails and texts

If you want to get a leg up on your competition, these features can provide you with the extra insight you’ll need.

Support

Obviously, an easy to use online reservation system is a must. We’ve already discussed that. However, even the best software can have issues or more complicated aspects.

That’s where effective tech support comes in. If you’re going to implement an online reservation system, you’ll want to choose a provider using one of two common tech support methods:

  1. A live tech support chat
  2. A tech help center

Either of these two methods is fine. As long as you’re able to have common issues addressed, you’re in the clear. 

The 6 Best Online Reservation Systems 

You know the benefits. You’re aware of the criteria we used to evaluate. It’s time to get to the list. 

Obviously, if you scour the internet, you’ll find loads of different online reservation systems. These are the 6 that we’ve chosen that stand above the rest. 

1. Skiplino Lite

Could we really have a list of the best online reservation systems without including Skiplino Lite?

Jokes aside, we’re here to back up that plug. After all, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we included Skiplino Lite and didn’t believe that it’s one of the best options on the market for restaurants and cafes. 

Starting with pricing, Skiplino Lite keeps it simple with one price for one set of features. Instead of pondering over which tier of service you want and which features you’ll need, Skiplino takes the guesswork out of the equation. The only decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to pay monthly or annually, with a small discount being awarded to those who pay the annual fee. 

 

Prices are accurate as of November 2020.

 

Next, with Skiplino Lite, you’ll gain access to many of the core features you’ll want in an online reservation system, including:

  • Remote reservation booking
  • An in-house app for walk-in customers
  • SMS notifications for customers
  • A display app for customer numbers

Here’s where Skiplino really shines, though. With the admin app, you’re able to gain valuable insight into your business through analytics and reports. You can then use this information to further your marketing and customer relationship nurturing efforts. 

Skiplino Lite’s analytics and reporting features can give you information and features such as:

  • Staff performance
  • Customer demographics
  • Customer feedback surveys 
  • Reports on reservation statistics

 

Lastly, Skiplino Lite can be easily set up in no more than 5 minutes. You don’t have to worry about fighting with complex or convoluted software. 

With all of this functionality and an easy to use dashboard, it’s a no-brainer to place Skiplino Lite amongst the best online reservation systems. Plus, you get a 7-day free trial! 

2. Eat App

When looking at Eat App’s pricing page, the first thing you’ll notice is the two separate tiers. The cheaper tier really doesn’t have you missing out on too much, although custom integrations with other apps are lacking. 

Also, similar to Skiplino, there’s a slight discount if you choose to pay annually. Just something to think about before making your decision.

Prices are accurate as of November 2020.

 

As far as features go, Eat App comes packed with many of the core features you’d expect, including:

  • Online reservations
  • A table management dashboard
  • SMS notifications when a table opens up
  • CRM and analytics features

One nifty additional feature with Eat App is their online ordering system which can be used to manage take-out and delivery orders. Since we’ve previously talked about how making multiple phone calls during a busy service can really throw things off course, eliminating another source of lengthy phone calls is certainly a bonus. 

Their numerous features and high level of functionality make them an option worth considering when choosing an online reservation system. 

3. Wisely

Wisely is an online reservation system that is actually marketed more as a restaurant CRM than a reservation system. However, they definitely don’t miss the mark on core reservation system features and functionality.

With Wisely, you’ll get access to:

  • A table management dashboard
  • Online reservations and booking through a mobile app
  • Reviews accessible straight from the Wisely dashboard
  • Advanced CRM and analytics

Wisely is also built with data security in mind, meeting compliance standards and keeping guest information safe and secure. 

As far as pricing goes, Wisely doesn’t actually have specific tiers, instead opting to price their service based on specific needs and size of business. However, according to Capterra, their rates begin at $150 a month. 

 

Prices are accurate as of November 2020.

 

With all the features mentioned above, checking out Wisely may not be a bad idea. 

4. OpenTable

OpenTable is interesting because it actually has two sides. The diner side of OpenTable is meant to find restaurants with openings for reservations using a search bar, similar to Google. 

However, OpenTable also has an online reservation system for restaurants and cafes. Their software comes with many different features, such as:

  • Contactless reservations
  • A dashboard app to review reservations, cancellations, VIPs, and other pertinent information
  • A clear and concise table management dashboard
  • Advanced CRM features

One stand out aspect of OpenTable is their marketing features, which allow you to market your restaurant to their network of diners already using their service. This could certainly help your business in the long run. 

For pricing, OpenTable has three different price tiers with dynamically different costs. Their first is the cheapest, coming in at $29 monthly. However, this lacks the table management and higher-end integrations of the more costly second tier. A lot of the top-tier marketing functionality is locked behind the higher price tiers, which is definitely something to take into consideration. 

 

Prices are accurate as of November 2020.

 

Although the pricing model can be a little confusing to figure out, there’s no doubt that OpenTable comes jam-packed with features. For those looking for loads of functionality, they’re an option to take into consideration. 

5. Zomato Book

What’s nice about Zomato Book is that they offer a video explaining how their online reservation system works directly on their homepage. Since many prefer learning via video rather than convoluted features pages, this is definitely a plus. 

Zomato Book has the core features that we’ve talked about with every online reservation system on our list, including:

  • Smart table management
  • Online booking, either from your website or directly through Zomato
  • Staff management 
  • CRM and analytics

 

One thing worth mentioning is that Zomato Book, similar to OpenTable, has some functionality related to the customer end of Zomato. Since customers are able to book reservations directly from your Zomato page, you can increase accessibility which in turn, can give you more bookings. 

Unfortunately, Zomato Book doesn’t offer a pricing page. You’ll have to put an inquiry in to learn more about costs. However, it may be worth it considering the features you’ll receive should you choose to go with Zomato book. 

6. Sagenda

Sagenda is an interesting pick as it’s not marketed directly to the food service industry, but with proper setup, it can be a decent online reservation system. 

So, if it isn’t actually designed for restaurants, why put it on this list?

Well, for starters, Sagenda is a free booking platform. The only time you’ll need to pay is if you choose to include one of their three “modules”, which are:

  1. Paypal module for online payments
  2. SMS module for reminders
  3. Email customization for reminders and email marketing

Prices are accurate as of November 2020.

 

As far as features go, with Sagenda, you’ll get:

  • Online booking
  • Integration into your website
  • Zero restrictions on bookings

While Sagenda may not be the most ideal solution for restaurants, they’re worth mentioning based on the free aspect. For brand new restaurants lacking resources to acquire more expensive online reservation systems, check out Sagenda and watch their demos to see if it can work for you. 

Online Reservation Systems Summaryonline-reservation-app-summary

 

We’ve covered what an online reservation system entails. We’ve talked about some of the benefits. We’ve even listed 6 of our top choices. 

The question is, are you going to take action and implement an online reservation system?

The answer should be yes. Chances are, most of your competition is using them already. As time passes, the ability to book reservations online is going to be widely sought after by diners around the world. 

Knowing this, it should be a no-brainer for you to check out these 6 options and implement an online reservation system as soon as possible. 

Have Some More Questions About Online Reservation Systems?

If you’re still confused about online reservation systems, don’t worry. We won’t leave you hanging. Reach out to us. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have. 

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