Should my restaurant get rid of the phone altogether?

restaurant phone
Technology can offset some challenges that come with the phone ringing on a busy evening. | Photo: Shutterstock.


Dear Advice Guy,

We changed our hours a bit during the holidays but remained open. I heard from a regular that he called and there was no answer (probably because we were busy) so he assumed we were closed even though our hours were updated and accurate on our website and voicemail. Should I just eliminate the phone altogether at this point to drive people to the web?

– Owner


I am old enough to remember the days when restaurants hired reservationists specifically to handle the large volume of phone calls. The Internet and mobile phones have eliminated that need for many operations: ready reference questions like operating hours, whether you serve alcohol, or whether an item is on the menu, can be addressed by your website or review sites, provided you update them frequently with accurate information. Reservations tend to be more accurate when made online.

So, yes, some operations do have success with eliminating their phone. It cuts an expense, prevents mistakes and miscommunication like the incident you mentioned, and doesn’t interrupt the flow of a busy service. That said, eliminating your phone would also cut a potential sales channel and fail to provide responsive service that would meet guest expectations. My advice is that unless you are one of those rare operations with a waiting list of people to fill your dining room, keep your phone but use technology to make it better work for your operation.

I had a similar experience over the holidays: I called a restaurant to verify their hours and listened to a voicemail sharing their hours from weeks ago. Like any tool, phones are only helpful if used properly. I also learned about a new technology tool for restaurant phones that I’m excited about: Syndera Systems. If a guest calls your restaurant on a cell phone (which most do), and you don’t answer, the guest gets a customizable text message in return. That message could have your hours of operation, request a text back to place an order, a request to call back at a preferred time, take a reservation or any number of interactions. I tried it by calling 470-691-5705.

Whatever your strategy or platform, we’ve found through the decade-plus of this column that communication is key—whatever you can do to meet the guest where they are and communicate your offerings, do it.

More on managing telephones here.