Managing bookings in the festive season

Turning tables faster with more bookings

The current trading climate is tough for the hospitality industry, it goes without saying that the small independent on Britain’s high street are feeling it along with the majority regardless of size! As a small business owner, I can sympathise with independents’ but now is the time to look at how you can cater for more table bookings and turn tables and takeaway food faster, with smoother card payment facilities.

Yesterday, I had a call from a Shropshire landlord (not a customer of mine) who owns five pubs with restaurant facilities. He went on to say that August had been the worst month he had experienced in all his years in the pub trade. The Eat Out To Help Out scheme had brought new customers and much needed revenue, but with no loyalty to the business and resulting in bad reviews from customers who were left waiting for 10 minutes for  food and being rude to his staff. The scheme may not have worked for this landlord but many hospitality businesses have benefitted but the conversation highlighted the importance of a review of card processing costs.

The positive being, this landlord took a vital step to lowering his card processing costs over his five pubs by talking to me, a much-needed review is in order!

I can’t resolve the operating issues and other suppliers costs, but I can help with streamlining customer payments, the bill arriving to the table quicker and payment being made and with tables being turned quicker, more revenue for the business. Where restaurants have nailed the turning of covers with speed the pub landlord or cafe owner with walk-ins in the past has had to evolve quickly and offer seated bookings.

Card processing charges the necessary evil

The necessary evil for taking card payments are the charges, something that I see merchants not always getting quite right. This can be for many reasons, typically an inherited thought process from when the business originally started.

Navigating through the many providers and their offerings without an expert is no picnic. Card processing goes way beyond the percentage rate, you can have the lowest rate available and still be paying over the odds. An established business can surprisingly have the same processes and provider in place from the start, everything has changed.

I see cases where merchants paying exaggerated costs with added payment portals, granted they are needed but you don’t have to stay with the same provider and most are on 30 day rolling contracts allowing for ongoing review of costs. Adjusting to the new way of taking table bookings and conforming to Government guidelines, merchants had to act quickly and in many cases at the start of lockdown think ‘out of the box’

Lockdown towards the end of March, would have meant for many in the hospitality business taking phone orders  and additional costs associated with this would not have realised until six weeks in and a full month of charges had landed in the April/May statements.

Reviewing your charges and costs is one of the most important things you can do for your business. It’s not just about the lowest rates it’s about how you take payments and the associated costs, there are ways to limit the additional costs.

So how can your card payment provider help with more bookings?

Understanding your business from my side of things is key to finding not only the right plan that will not only save costs, admin time and a smoother running of staff and operations. This comes in many forms but may include integration with your third-party EPOS provider, or simply the totalling up of the days takings and integrating with your existing accounts package. This also saves cost and time for your accountant, they love this!

Even the basic costs, like rates may be elevated due to taking deposits for tables over the telephone or a new takeaway service. These telephone payments have additional costs, most card industry providers range from an extra 0.2% or 50p on debit cards. In a nutshell, for every 100 orders you take payment over the telephone you could be paying £50 extra, there are ways to overcome this charge or at least limit the additional fees.

If you have ventured online during the pandemic, you can’t be blamed for making quick and appropriate decisions to enable the orders to roll in. But is there a better way to sync the online ordering and day face to face payments? Yes, there is and it will save you money.

Now is the time to look at how you are taking payments, plans for the festive season will be in place and how you’re taking payments and bookings should be at the top of the list. Optimising revenue is the one thing that a payments expert can assist you with. Remember, it’s not always about low rates, it’s the extra costs that you may not have been conditioned to factor in and these could be having a serious effect on your bottom line.

Authorisation fees can make a huge difference to your monthly statement, only last month I saved a small convenience store over £160 per month on Auth Fees!

If you’re doing many transactions a month, these soon add up. The convenience store was doing 3550 transactions a month, which had increased during lockdown. His debit and credit rate was low, in fact as low as it goes for the provider he was with, which was one of the largest in the UK, even with the floored rate he was still paying more than he needed. The provider was not able assess the business needs, only provide one solution that did not fit and ultimately the savings with another provider exceeded £1900 over a 12-month period.

In perspective, 3550 transactions a month may not be what your cafe or pub is achieving but this equates to 117 transactions a day. You only have to work out how many orders you’re achieving a day to work out the possible savings. Put this together with faster table turnaround and more customers then there is going to be an increase in revenue and yes, greater savings.

Get a free review, email tracy@hellomerchantsolutions.co.uk or call 01952 915 059. Out of hours appointments available or by email and phone.

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