Guest Fulfillment System: The Ultimate Guide For Restaurants
January 3, 2024
Welcome to the most comprehensive guide to guest fulfillment systems on the internet. If you’re searching for a new way to offer customers an unprecedented personalized dining experience, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, you will learn:
What a guest fulfillment system is.
Why restaurants need a guest fulfillment system
The types of customers who use it.
What it looks like operating in your restaurant.
The benefits of using a guest fulfillment system.
And how using a guest fulfillment system profits both you and your customers.
Let’s dive in.
What Is A Guest Fulfillment System?
Most people reading this article are probably hearing or learning about guest fulfillment systems (GFS) for the first time, which is great because it’s relatively new to the industry, and you’ve come to the source to learn how it can benefit your restaurant.
So, to kick things off, here is a dry, straightforward definition of what a GFS is:
A guest fulfillment system is a service or technology designed to enhance customer satisfaction by personalizing and optimizing their experience, often through customized offerings, preferences management, and improved service delivery.
Awesome—let’s look at how that would work in the context of a restaurant.
In restaurants, a guest fulfillment system is a customer-focused solution designed to enhance the dining experience by allowing guests to personalize their visit. More specifically, it allows customers to select their preferred seating and dining environment, meeting their preferences and expectations for a more fulfilling and memorable dining experience.
Why Restaurants Need A Guest Fulfillment System
Every restaurant has a problem with its current reservation system—or, more accurately, the issue falls on the customer making the reservation.
Just like buying tickets to a concert or booking a hotel room for a vacation, customers want control over where they’re watching the concert, staying in a hotel, or sitting in a restaurant.
It would be terrible to book a stay in Hawaii only to arrive and see your room’s view looks down on the parking lot, not the beautiful ocean blue on the other side of the building.
Even though we’ve been buying concert tickets and booking hotel stays for decades, no one has thought to apply this same contempt to the restaurant industry. As of right now, if a guest were to make a reservation for tomorrow evening, they’d essentially be playing table roulette with where they’ll be seated.
For example, let’s say a person is planning an engagement at a top-floor restaurant in New York City.
They call or make their reservation online and hope for the best. Even when the time comes to be sat for their table booking, the person proposing still has no idea where their table will be.
Following the host, they weave between tables, passing a few that are empty but perfect for an engagement, riding an emotional roller coaster till the guest’s heart finally sinks—it’s the table closest to the bathroom, and on the way to the kitchen, so front-of-house staff will pass by every few moments carrying food, drinks, and bus tubs.
No cityscape view. No privacy for a nerve-racking proposal.
The night, while memorable, will lack the magic, energy, and ambiance they were hoping for. So what should a person do when making a reservation for a special night?
Typically, the only way to lessen the chances of this happening is to make a note in the reservation you’ve made online and cross your fingers or slip the maître d’ some cash, but that feels uncomfortable and kinda tacky—plus, they could ignore you, and you’d lose $20.
This is where a GFS steps in to help guests get the exact table they want, eliminating uncertainty and giving customers the control they’ve always wanted. Not only does this enhance the guest experience, but it also streamlines restaurant operations and elevates the establishment's image as a customer-centric and modern dining destination.
But where did this approach to guest fulfillment begin, and what exactly would that look like in your restaurant?
To better understand how a guest fulfillment system can apply to your restaurant, let’s first look at an industry that’s been using the system for decades—airlines.
The Original Guest Fulfillment System
First introduced by American Airlines in the 1980s, AA created what they called “revenue management.”
Revenue management was designed to create a different flying experience for each customer demographic:
The goal was to maximize profits by offering a ticket to every level of flyer, effectively opening the door to people who typically couldn’t afford to fly (economy) while simultaneously creating an elevated and personalized flying experience for those looking to have an easier and more comfortable flight (business and first-class).
Decades later, it’s still a massive success.
Customers who typically couldn’t afford to fly are willing to buy an economy ticket just to get on the plane, while first-class flyers get an elevated experience with personalized service on long flights around the world.
The airlines win because each customer is happy to pay whatever price best fits their lifestyle and budget, maximizing their profits and putting more butts in the seats of every flight.
American Airlines might have created revenue management, but once other airlines, and then other industries saw the potential, it took off. In a relatively short amount of time, the idea of revenue management gained a firm footing in many of our everyday expenses, like:
Car Rentals — (Hertz 1990s)
Ridesharing — (Uber 2010s)
Vacation — (Airbnb 2010s)
Hotels — (Intercontinental 2000s)
Live Music — (concerts 1980s)
Sports — (Boston Celtics 2000s)
Airlines — (American Airlines 1980s)
Each of these companies saw an opportunity and figured out a way to make it work for their industry, but for some reason, restaurants never picked up on the idea.
So—what would it look like if we applied the same concept to the restaurant industry?
How A Guest Fulfillment System Works In Restaurants
Because airlines did such a stellar job, we’re going to run with them as a comparison for how restaurants can execute the same concept.
Starting at the front of the plane and moving toward the tail, we have:
Which tables and seats customers desire most will change from restaurant to restaurant, but based on this floor map, you can see the tables to the right and outer perimeter are the most sought-after tables in-house, while the more abundant “economy” tables are in the center of the floor and bartop.
Restaurants also have a very specific demographic of guests, but obviously, we don’t use terms like “business” and “economy” diners.
We can break diners into 4 categories:
Each of these diners has its own set of unique requests and preferences when going out to eat, so let’s take a close look at what each of these categories brings to the table (no pun intended).
Who Uses A Guest Fulfillment System
Once customers learn that your restaurant uses a GFS, it won’t take long for them to adopt and adapt to its usage.
They will be eager to use this system every time they make a reservation at your restaurant, as it ensures not only a table at their preferred time but also the specific table that meets their dining expectations.
The customers most likely to consistently use your GFS will be your Super VIP, VIP, and Premium Diners—let’s learn more about them so you can better meet their expectations.
Starting with the fewer in number but still very prestigious are the Super VIP diners.
These diners represent less than 0.2% of cover counts over the year, are known personally by the maître d', host, or owner, and typically don’t use the reservation system.
From an airline comparison, these are the private jet crowd.
Some operators will go as far as to save an open table for these high-level diners, but with a GFS, it’s not necessary, allowing the restaurant to maximize profits with every table.
VIPs are high-income individuals or corporate diners who know exactly what they want and expect a higher level of service. In an airline comparison, these would be “first-class” diners.
Premium diners go out to eat often, love to chase experience-centric dining, and spend more money than the average customer, accounting for 6,000 - 8,000 covers a year—which can account for over 50% of a restaurant’s total revenue.
Premium diners are more valuable than all casual diners combined, but because their volume and demand are so high, front-of-house staff can have a difficult time keeping up with requests for a more enhanced dining experience.
What tables would these diners prefer to use?
Now that we know more about these diners, where would the most coveted tables be located in a restaurant?
Let’s use our restaurant map to understand better what that would look like.
If it’s the Super VIP crowd, depending on their mood, they’d want a table to be seen (upper right corner), or for privacy, they’d prefer a large booth tucked away in a corner (bottom left).
Premium and VIP diners would want similar seating, seeking to reserve window seating (bottom center), unique chef counters (top center), and cozy booths (upper right).
While this 2D model could help customers pick a table that would best fit their desired experience when going out to eat, it doesn’t give much context to what is going on around the table or even what that part of the restaurant looks like.
It still leaves a lot to chance and doesn’t give much of an elevated dining experience.
So what if we took this 2D floorplan and turned it into a 3D interactive guest fulfillment system?
How a Guest Fulfillment System Transforms Your Restaurant Experience
After adopting a guest fulfillment system, your customers will begin their dining journey before ever stepping foot through the front door.
For Super VIPs, VIPs, and Premium Diners, this offers the perfect blend of control and enhanced dining experience they've been seeking for years.
This is a sample of what customers will see when using the 3D model.
The difference between the 2D model and the 3D model is immediate and striking. If you’d like to experience this restaurant yourself, follow the link here.
The 3D model is easy to navigate—simply use your cursor to tap on the transparent circles on the floor—then you can take a 360° view of any part of the restaurant.
As incredible as this virtual walking tour is, it’s not enough to just see the restaurant’s dining room—VIPs and Premium Diners need more context, which is why there are also detailed listings of table sections and individual tables.
After guests perform an initial walk-through, customers can then revisit sections they find interesting.
By clicking on the table section that feels like a good fit for their reservation, a panel will pop up on the right, giving a more detailed description of what each table offers.
In the descriptions, guests will learn what makes each table and section unique, with details like vibe, atmosphere, and dress code.
This means customers going out to eat no longer have to roll the dice on whether or not they’ll get a table to their liking.
Regulars can consistently lock in their favorite tables any night of the week, and new customers can take a virtual stroll through the dining room to see which table best fits their needs.
Using a guest fulfillment system radically changes the experience customers have while dining at your restaurant.
Now, not only are they getting the food they know and love, but they can make informed decisions on how a table will help solidify an unforgettable time going out to eat.
So far, we’ve discussed how amazing a guest fulfillment system is for customers, but what about you and your restaurant?
Benefits Of Implementing A Guest Fulfillment System
Using a guest fulfillment system in your restaurant opens the door to several unique opportunities that are only possible by using a GFS.
Make more money with no cost of goods.
Here is the most exciting part of operating with a GFS—as patrons become familiar with your restaurant's unique table offerings, a demand for the most coveted spots will naturally emerge.
Premium tables offering picturesque outdoor views, cozy and intimate booths, seats at the chef's counter for an up-close culinary show, or tables with an expansive view of the dining room.
These prime locations will grow in popularity to the point where you can introduce a reservation fee, adding a new revenue stream.
For example, if you own a riverfront property with an amazing view of passing boats and the river, you can charge depending on how many people want the table around that same time.
If it’s that weird limbo time between the lunch and dinner service, you don’t have to charge a thing, but once it’s dinner service and the sun is setting, reflecting brilliant light and colors off the water, you can charge $10, $20, $50, or whatever people are willing to pay to get that same great seat.
Some operators initially feel a little uneasy about charging for tables, but remember, just like with airlines, our VIP and Premium diners are more than willing to pay whatever it costs to chase the dining experience they're hoping for—not to mention a single booking upgrade can increase profits by 2x-4x on a single table.
Providing premium diners with opportunities to consistently grab great tables turns them from “sometimes” guests into hardcore regulars. Not only are you making more money on reservations because a GFS has zero costs of goods— you’re also making bigger revenue on larger groups of consistent regulars.
Think about it—why would a VIP diner risk going to another restaurant, where they might end up with a table for four in the busy center of the dining room, surrounded by bustling servers and other guests, when they could instead secure a guaranteed private booth at your establishment, perfect for closing a business deal?
A guest fulfillment system will create a buzz about the “best tables” in the city.
As guests learn of your new system that allows the selection of specific tables, word will spread about which tables are best and how easy it was to use.
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of organic marketing because it inherently tells new customers there’s zero risk to try it.
With the recommendation coming from a trusted source, it almost guarantees guests will visit your restaurant, not just for the food, but for the tables that fit whatever dining experience they’re searching for.
As time passes, you’ll begin to hear guests refer to sections of the restaurant that was previously only known by name to the staff, demonstrating proof that each table has something unique to offer.
This word-of-mouth excitement amplifies your restaurant's reputation, making it a talked-about destination for exceptional dining experiences.
Seating guests will be more efficient.
Previously, when guests reserved tables, the front-of-house team had the challenge of creating seating charts and deciding where guest should sit in various sections. But even the best front-of-house staff can make errors.
By adopting a guest fulfillment system, we reduce the chance of snap decisions leading to misunderstandings or conflicts.
Ultimately, using a GFS allows your team to concentrate more on delivering exceptional service instead of being bogged down with seating logistics.
A GFS is super easy to install.
All table bookings made on a guest fulfillment system like Tablz get automatically synced to your current reservation management system—no second tablets or inputs are required.
And getting started is only 3 easy steps:
Schedule Mapping: We come and create a 3D mapping of your restaurant. It typically takes less than an hour, and we only need a clean, empty, service-ready dining room.
Select Tables: Working with a dedicated Tablz concierge, you pick your best tables and set pricing based on date and time.
Go Live: Connect Tablz to your website’s reservation page, social media, and search engines to get the word out.
It’s really that simple, and we can have your new guest fulfillment system up and running live in less than a week.
Start Now And Set Your Tables Apart
The restaurant industry has been notoriously slow to adopt new technology, and it’s for good reason—profit margins are razor thin, and taking a gamble to add new tools can be expensive and time-consuming.
But with the bulldozer we call The Pandemic hitting our industry, restaurants had to adopt tech FAST to survive. Now, both operators and especially customers have adapted to a tech-assisted dining experience.
Also, with the explosion of AI, customers are expecting big changes in the restaurant industry, and using a guest fulfillment system makes a statement that your restaurant is rolling with the changes.
It also shows customers you care about giving them the best dining experience available, value their time and money, and take your business seriously, instantly set your business apart from competitors while simultaneously giving you a competitive edge with additional income.
We’ve all felt the impact of inflation, and with a GFS, you can combat the higher costs by offering a commodity that requires zero goods to purchase just like Cafe la Trova in Miami did, which brought in an extra $120,000 last year, just from premium seating.
Partnering with Tablz will:
Dramatically change your customer's dining experience
Create a larger base of consistent, loyal customers.
Create a new revenue source with zero cost of goods.
Build your reputation as an innovative, high-quality restaurant