In September 2017, Margie and Andy Holmes opened Little Savanna in Palmerston North, New Zealand, with fusion food that reflects the married couple’s respective South African and New Zealand background and culture.
The bar and restaurant focuses on the art of flame grilling meat, and uses high-quality New Zealand produce for dishes you would typically find in a South African restaurant; including Peri-Peri chicken livers, full-flavoured steaks and Espetadas, a Portuguese style of skewered meat. Accompanying the dishes is a sophisticated drinks menu, with a Coravin system that enhances their extensive wine list.
For the first three months post-opening, the casual-upmarket restaurant used a paper diary and email to organise table bookings. They would respond to each booking enquiry – a time consuming process – and personally communicated each booking request with staff. If a diner arrived at their table late, or on the wrong day, they could blame the restaurant for the mix-up.
Following this period, ResDiary was recommended to them as a table management software. After a bit of research, they launched into it and have used it ever since.
“Guests like [ResDiary] as it’s easy for them to go online and book. 60-70 percent of our bookings come through digitally [as reservations can be made on the Little Savanna website, social media channels and, most recently, through DishCult] which saves us a lot of time,” Margie says.
“You don’t have to pick up the phone or take messages. ResDiary provides instant confirmation of a booking and allows you to juggle tables all the time.”
“I couldn’t imagine using pen and paper for every booking.”
Disclaimer: This guide is general in nature and does not take into account your individual circumstances. Before acting on any information, you should consider whether this is right for your business.
Notes, pre-orders and feedback
There are a number of advantages built into ResDiary’s software that makes life easier for the Little Savanna team.
The customer notes function – which enables customers to jot down and share special requests, food allergies and other relevant information – helps to simplify in-house communication, as details are transferred straight from the diner to relevant staff. This is an advantage compared to using a paper diary, where there is a greater risk of human error.
Automatic confirmation emails have also made it easier for Little Savanna staff to verify the time, date and notes attached to each table booking. According to Margie, the timely reminder emails have also reduced no-shows as diners are less likely to forget about their booking.
The pre-ordering system – typically used by lunch crowds on a work break, and for large bookings – have also saved time for restaurant staff and diners. Margie says that after discussing how diners want their steaks to be cooked, what sauces they want to go with it or whether they want chips or potatoes, a large order could take 10 minutes to complete.
With pre-orders, diners can walk through the door and wait for their meal, without the stress of ordering on the night.
“Tomorrow night we have a group of 25 people coming in, and they’ve all pre-ordered. They can arrive, enjoy their meal and leave. Pre-ordering is growing for us in popularity, and is definitely something I wouldn’t want to lose,” Margie says.
“The other ResDiary feature I appreciate is the feedback emails that customers receive after their dining experience. We get constructive feedback that we wouldn’t otherwise receive, and have made changes [to our operation] as a result.”
Pen and paper can be archaic
Little Savanna regularly hosts a wide variety of events; including 90th birthdays, wedding anniversaries, first dates, family dinners and after-work drinks. For Margie, there’s no going back to just using pen and paper, as the online booking system has made it easier to deal with a range of bookings.
“I don’t know how others just use pen and paper. I just don’t. It seems super archaic and time consuming to me,” says Margie.
“After three months of opening, we started using ResDiary and haven’t looked back.”
“It’s so easy to go online to make a booking. It’s been fantastic.”