Pre-booked sales ‘becoming the norm’ for pub customers

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

On the books: an increase in pre-booked sales has driven business for many pub companies
On the books: an increase in pre-booked sales has driven business for many pub companies
Recent trading statements from Stonegate, ETM Group and Arc Inspirations – as well as findings by Feed It Back – have demonstrated the increasing significance of pre-booked sales for pubs.

Research by customer feedback and online reputation specialists Feed It Back has found that special occasions – such as birthdays, anniversaries and graduations – are likely to drive either extremely positive or extremely negative reviews, with very little middle ground.

Analysing data from across the restaurant, quick-service restaurant and pub industries from May to November 2018, Feed It Back found that reviews mentioning graduation had the most positive results, in particular on Google Reviews where 78% of reviews received the top five-star rating compared to 64% for anniversaries and only 52% for birthdays.

Moreover, research revealed that almost a fifth of birthday reviews received the minimum rating of one star out of five, with anniversaries returning the most polarised online reviews, with one fifth of reviews scoring one out of five stars on Google Reviews and Facebook.

Integral to positive reviews of special occasions according to Feed It Back’s findings was a smooth and informative pre-booking process, with a positive pre-booking experience mentioned more regularly by customers than food and drink standards found at a venue. 

Main driver of reviews

Feed It Back chief executive Carlo Platia said: “The data clearly shows these special occasions are make or break moments for operators where they can create loyal brand advocates or disgruntled customers, who then turn to social channels, feedback platforms and friends and family to vent frustration or share enjoyment.

“Interestingly, the main drivers behind positive and negative reviews are not related to food and drink, but rather the smoothness of the booking process and recognition of a special occasion.

“With this information, operators should focus on introducing systems to identify when customers are booking a special occasion and treat them accordingly upon arrival.

“Tracking, understanding and [taking] action on the levers impacting the customer experience is imperative to remaining competitive in today’s challenging market, and operators are increasingly approaching us to understand how our technology can help with this.”

Increased investment

The importance of pre-booked sales was highlighted recently in trading updates from Arc inspirations, ETM Group and Stonegate.

As reported by The Morning Advertiser​, Stonegate Pub Company saw a 17.8% uplift in pre-booked sales​ in 2018, with ETM Group’s pre-booked sales increasing by 13.3% during the five weeks to 31 December.

In addition, Arc Inspirations, operator of 18 sites across the north of England, saw pre-booked sales increase by almost a third​ (30%) throughout 2018.

Discussing the increased importance of pre-booked sales, Arc Inspirations CEO Martin Wolstencroft commented: “Pre-booked sales are playing a larger role in boosting our overall revenue, operational efficiency and increasing cost control.

“We have increased our focus on pre-booked sales across our estate of bars by investing heavily in the sales team, doubling it in size, to keep up with the increased demand and to maximise our conversions and pre-booked sales.

“This is hugely beneficial during busy periods, especially the festive trading period.

“This year, we refined our pre-booked sales booking process with the aim of minimising no-shows and empty tables.

“All pre-booked parties paid their full pre-order balance at least four weeks in advance.

“As a whole, the industry is starting to invest more in pre-booked sales as this is becoming the norm for customers.

“With convenience having a significant influence over consumers, it is now easier than ever to click via social media, website or app to book.

“The business has continued to invest in booking technology and focus on the user experience on the website to make the process as simple and accessible as possible for potential guests.

“This benefits both parties because not only is this more convenient for the customer, but it also saves team members’ time and avoids having to chase payments after the party date or having to wait for corporate payment terms, sometimes resulting in lengthy waits for payment.

“Through enabling pre-paid functionality, this also increases cash flow by having the pre-paid balance in the bank before having to order stock for busy periods.”

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