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Guest management boosts loyalty, efficiency

customer using touch screen

Devising an optimal way to manage diners waiting for tables can be challenging for both managers and guests. In recent years, technology has evolved to not only do a better job of forecasting table availability, but also make the wait more bearable for customers.

One example of this technology evolution is the Guest Manager platform from CAKE, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sysco Foods.

With CAKE Guest Manager, instead of just asking “how many?”, the host staff at a busy restaurant also enters the guest’s mobile number into an iPad-based system. Guests receive a confirmation text with an estimated wait time and a link to view their progress in line. Once a table is ready, the guest receives a text or call. 

But CAKE Guest Manager is much more than a waitlist management tool. By connecting mobile numbers to customers, the system builds guest profiles that can be tapped to personalize future visits. That kind of data allows hosts and servers to do things like welcome guests by name, know in advance if they prefer to sit in a certain part of the restaurant, understand their food and drink preferences and more. 

“Customers get a kick out of the personalized experience,” says Jeannie McColgan, co-owner of The Painted Pony in Bethlehem, Conn. “We’re finding that our customers are even responding back to us via text message, thanking us when we text them about their estimated wait time.” Moreover, McColgan and her staff have used the guest profiles to suggest new wines and specials based on order history, and she says guests have been impressed by that personal touch.

Another function CAKE Guest Manager handles deftly is online reservations and traditional phone bookings. Guests booking either way receive a text message confirming the reservation—a surefire way to reduce no-shows. A call-ahead seating feature can also be enabled, allowing guests to add themselves to the waitlist from their mobile phones.

How does CAKE make better predictions? During the first month of use, CAKE Guest Manager learns restaurant traffic patterns and provides suggested estimated wait times to host staff based on historical data. Those estimates are more accurate than the traditional best guesses. The improved accuracy results in fewer walk-aways and more happy customers.

Streamlined table management is another feature of the platform. Preconfigured server sections distribute guests evenly, and a “next up” algorithm takes the guesswork out of seating guests. Operators can easily build customized floor maps to account for actual table types and sizes, multiple floors and inside/outside seating.

Guest Manager can be integrated with CAKE’s Point of Sale (POS) platform, enabling unprecedented access to data through on-demand reports on sales, staffing levels, labor cost, trending dishes and server efficiency. Those reports help flag scheduling issues that can affect a restaurant’s ability to run smoothly or keep a lid on labor costs.

The Painted Pony witnessed the power of the dual CAKE platforms firsthand. After adopting both the CAKE POS and Guest Manager, McColgan saw weekly sales jump more than 10%, with gains of 20% on the busiest day, Saturday. CAKE also clearly showed the slowest and busiest hours throughout the week, information that helped McColgan make better staffing decisions.

Setting up either the CAKE POS or Guest Manager is a user-friendly process, thanks to web-based training and videos. One-on-one questions are answered by CAKE University experts, 80% of whom have restaurant experience.

Operators that have adopted the integrated CAKE POS and Guest Management systems have been able to seat an average of 7% more guests, a boost made possible by more accurate forecasting and better tracking once guests have been seated. For a busy restaurant, that’s money no longer left on the table.

This post is sponsored by Sysco

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