The rise of the direct restaurant relationship

By Danilo Mangano

- Last updated on GMT

The rise of the direct restaurant relationship SevenRooms

Related tags Bookings SevenRooms Restaurant

The managing director of booking platform SevenRooms on why maintaining strong and personalised relationships with guests remains critical.

The last few years have seen the hospitality industry face significant and varied challenges, and operators today are having to work harder than ever before to foster loyalty with customers and attract new diners through their doors. With the impact of the economic climate continuing to be felt by both consumers and operators alike, maintaining strong and personalised relationships with guests remains critical.

A key aspect of this comes from understanding how consumer habits are evolving when it comes to finding new favourite places to eat, their expectations about the experience when they are there – and above all being able to meet and exceed these. Our new 2023 Direct Dining Report has put the spotlight on this to examine how UK diners are discovering new restaurants, and what is top of the list when it comes to reservation habits. What it has revealed is that there is an increasing move by guests to book direct, which for operators must look to facilitate easily if they are looking to grow and build deeper relationships with customers.

For today’s guests, there is a clear shift away from ‘older’ preferences when it comes to discovering new restaurants and making reservations, which is paving the way for the emergence of new trends. As our data revealed, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to how consumers are unearthing a new spot to eat at; something operators need to take note of and respond to.

Personal recommendations and social media are leading the way where discovery preferences are concerned, with 38% of UK diners most frequently finding new dining spots through friends and family, 21% through Google and 17% through restaurant profiles on social media. While 13% of guests discover new restaurants through TripAdvisor and a similar proportion (12%) use influencers, it’s interesting to note that just 7% come across a new venue through OpenTable and even less via Resy (4%). For restaurants there are interesting take aways here, not only in terms of the breadth of routes guests are now using as part of the discovery, but also how far down the list third-party booking platforms now sit. What’s clear is the critical need to ensure they are ‘discoverable’ across a variety of channels to maximise the opportunities to engage potential guests.

It’s not just in the restaurant discovery that the decline of the third-party platforms is evident, it’s also the case when it comes to guest booking preferences, with three times as many UK consumers now booking on a restaurant website directly than through third-parties. Over half (55%) of guests say that making reservations directly rather than with a third-party reservation platform is better for the restaurant, while 15% prefer to go direct to avoid sharing any data with other parties. Such a shift in behaviour indicates that consumers understand the downsides of third-parties for restaurants when it comes to the fees charged and the retention of data, which is particularly pertinent during the current economic conditions. Not only this though, they also recognise the benefits to be gained by booking direct in terms of a tailored experience, their reservation being a priority, and a personal relationship with the restaurant.

While this is certainly a reassuring shift for operators to see that consumers are more attuned to making a booking directly, this doesn’t guarantee loyalty. Diners clearly want to do everything they can to support the hospitality space at this time in particular, but at a time when they are also keeping a close eye on their spending, expectations around the experience are high – especially when booking directly. In fact, our study found that 1 in 5 diners believe they receive a better experience at the restaurant when they book directly, while 16% think that booking directly means they get more tailored promotions or discounts, along with their reservation being prioritised.

Restaurants must ensure they are doing everything they can to adapt to these changing behaviours, exceed diner expectations and build strong relationships. Third-party platforms don’t empower operators improve the guest experience and limit their ability to foster that all-important long-term loyalty. Having the tools in place that will enable an operator to meet these needs is more important than ever; the bare minimum won’t incentivise guests to return. Driving loyalty requires operators to prioritise incredible experiences and personalised touches from start to finish, and at the heart of this sits data. Our own technology has been build around setting up operators for success. Through taking an omnichannel approach, we support restaurants to meet guests wherever they are. With guest behaviours evolving both in the discovery and booking preferences, tools that enable adaptability are vital.

At a time where the industry is facing continued challenges, understanding consumer behaviours when it comes to the discovery and booking is critical. As diner habits evolve, skepticism towards third-parties grows and new preferences emerge, operators have a huge opportunity to capitalise on this. The only way in which consumers and restaurants can both get the best end of the deal is through a direct, transparent, and personal relationship: operators must continue to prioritise this, going forward – and having technology in place is key to enabling this and driving long-term, loyal relationships.

For more information about SevenRooms click here.



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