A study of 474 consumers documents the increasing popularity of sites that allow reservations at numerous restaurants—although the telephone remains by far the most common way to make a restaurant reservation.
Slightly over half of the respondents to this survey had made a restaurant reservation online. About 60 percent of those who made reservations online used a multi-restaurant site to do so, and the rest used the restaurant's own website.
Those who continued to make phone reservations said they preferred a personal touch. However, a substantial percentage of respondents who telephoned their reservation had located the restaurant using a multi-restaurant site or app. Restaurateurs need to note the demographics and habits of customers who typically make reservations online.
There are no gender differences between customers who make reservations online and those who don't, but the online group is noticeably younger. Multi-restaurant site users also visit restaurants more frequently than the other respondents.
They were more likely to rely on online reviews, and they like having several restaurants to choose from. Although participating in a multi-restaurant reservation site represents an additional expense, restaurateurs should consider a distribution strategy that includes such sites, especially since they seem to be the preferred portal for younger guests who dine out more frequently than others.
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E. Kimes is a professor of operations management at the School of Hotel Administration. From 2005–2006, she served as interim dean of the School and from 2001-2005, she served as the school's director of graduate studies. Kimes teaches restaurant revenue management, yield management and food and beverage management. She has been named the school's graduate teacher of the year three times. Her research interests include revenue management and forecasting in the restaurant, hotel and golf industries. She has published over 50 articles in leading journals such as Interfaces, Journal of Operations Management, Journal of Service Research, Decision Sciences, and the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. She has served as a consultant to many hospitality enterprises around the world, including Chevy's FreshMex Restaurants, Walt Disney World Resorts, Ruby's Diners, Starwood Asia-Pacific and Troon Golf. Kimes earned her doctorate in Operations Management in 1987 from the University of Texas at Austin.