Over the last 17 years, I have worked in the both the front of the house and the back of the house for hotels and restaurants as a General Manager, Front Desk Clerk, Line Cook, and Catering Sales Manager. I have also been a vendor to the Hospitality industry selling technology like Sales & Catering Automation for hotels, and most recently Business Intelligence. My experience working in and selling to major hotels and restaurants all across the United States has led me to now take the plunge into starting my own software company, which brings me to my point.
I am constantly amazed at how technology adverse most restaurateurs are. They all say they want the “high touch”, but not the ‘high tech”. In my opinion, high tech and high touch are not mutually exclusive. Technology can bring people together (look no further than this website) and can make the high touch more real (stop asking if I have been to your restaurant before, yes, like 10 times, glad to know I am that important to you).
One area that desperately needs technology is in the area of private dining. Now that the holidays are over, are your private dining rooms sitting empty? For fun try this exercise, call your restaurant and try to book the private dining room. My bet is that the catering manager is “out” or “busy”, and that she/he will call you “right back.” In the hotel world, we were trained to answer a lead (usually delivered by fax) in less than an hour! Do you know how many restaurants I can call in a hour? Lots. We had a saying “the first one in, wins.”
Now is the time for your catering manager/floor manager to be out making the calls to re-book all your holiday parties for 2008, and to secure more private dining business. Morton’s Restaurant recently put out a press release announcing that they just installed video conferencing into their private dining area’s to woo corporate clients. The reason for doing this is private dining accounts for 19% of their business, or $58 million annually, and the average check is $15 higher than a-la-carte dining. What is really amazing is that the private dining rooms are sitting dark 50% of the time! Maybe I am missing something, but before I invest in conferencing equipment, I would want to know why my private dining rooms are sitting dark half of the time.
So, why is private dining so difficult to book? High touch is not being complimented with technology. Technology to assist catering manager/floor managers has not been developed in a way that is specific to restaurants (there are hundreds of CRM systems out there, but trust me, they were not built for restaurants). Because CRM and Catering software is complicated, difficult to install, and more difficult to use, they are not being adopted, therefore, your private dining room is sitting dark, and you are losing money.