Live Bookings take on Groupon

At present, 70 percent of people use search engines to decide where to eat and 68 percent expect to be able to book online – Colin Tenwick, CEO of Live Bookings, explores the growing popularity of online reservations

Feature image

Consumers are swapping the pavement for the internet, a fact that is as apparent in the restaurant sector as any other. While some restaurants are online-savvy, many have failed to realise the sheer scale and rapidity of change in consumer habits and still rely on the old ways of finding and interacting with customers. With new opportunities created every day through the likes of social media, mobile internet and cloud computing, restaurants that use technology are better positioned to attract the modern consumer.

By moving the brand experience to a diner’s online world, restaurants can appeal to more customers than ever before – and keep them coming back again and again. Livebookings was founded to respond to this shift – to cater for the consumer that wants to interact with restaurants online and on the move – while at the same time driving profitability for restaurants.

Mobile for the masses
Diners today demand instant access to the services they want around the clock and mobile technology is fundamental in delivering a high-quality user experience. Only 2.6 percent of restaurants have a website that is optimised to take advantage of mobile technology even though 23 percent of web browsing is now done through mobile devices. With 27 percent of adults and 47 percent of UK teenagers now owning smartphones, restaurants that don’t facilitate mobile reservations are missing out on a massive opportunity to fill tables. This trend is consistent throughout Europe and in the last six months, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria have all boasted the strongest growth in mobile bookings. The Netherlands alone boasted 665 percent growth since March 2011.

Aside from instant access to mobile services, consumers are also demanding greater bang for their buck. With millions hooked on restaurant offers, the deals market is proving a major contributor to a restaurant’s revenue stream. The likes of Groupon, Living Social and Kelkoo are pushing a vast amount of diners to a long list of restaurants. The current deals model, however, is creating as many casualties as beneficiaries, with many restaurant managers struggling to take advantage of a potentially lucrative proposition.

The daily deals boom has the potential to deliver predictable and recurring long-term profits for restaurants, but it must be managed wisely. Being the largest provider of online booking services for restaurants, Livebookings was the first to offer a platform that managed the large levels of deals coupons brandished by consumers; one of the company’s many milestones that has cemented its position as Europe’s market leader.

Shaking up the restaurant sector
Livebookings continues to dominate the European online restaurant reservations space, with record growth over its nearest competitor by over 40 percent. As the trusted partner of over 9,000 restaurants in 23 countries, it provides over one million diners every month, with a reservation made every three seconds. Levels of online bookings are up 76.5 percent year-on-year at a time when the economy has stalled; suggesting that once the economy recovers this growth trajectory should be even greater.

The company has taken the restaurant industry by storm by offering an innovative, flexible and competitively priced service to restaurants, while also successfully building its consumer business by offering innovative solutions aimed at satisfying growing consumer demand for mobile and online reservations.
In the consumer space, Livebookings’ consumer restaurant reservations website, Bookatable, delivers over 40,000 diners to restaurants every week. The Star Deals function enables Livebookings’ restaurants to offer high-quality dining experiences to an audience interested in food and dining out as opposed to bargain-hunters only looking for low-cost deals. This type of innovation reflects the company’s vision to create a better restaurant industry for all – improving the reservations experience to make it simple and easy for consumers, and helping restaurants become more profitable.

Leading by example
CEO Colin Tenwick joined Livebookings in November 2010 and, since his arrival, the company has been pursuing an accelerated growth strategy with the long-term goal of global market leadership status. Prior to Livebookings, Tenwick ran StepStone, which turned over €17m when he joined in 2001 and had grown to €120m in revenues when it was sold to Axel Springer in 2009.

The online restaurant bookings and associated marketing services market is rapidly expanding in Europe and Tenwick’s experience of SaaS-based solutions and web-based marketing has been instrumental in the company’s success. In the quarter ending June 2011, the number of diners who booked via the Livebookings platform grew 100 percent to 2.6 million, compared to the same period in 2010. Likewise, Bookatable has become the fastest-growing in its category in Europe, with close to 700,000 visitors a month and 163 percent year-on-year growth.

In the economic turmoil that we are currently experiencing, restaurants have to be innovative and respond quickly to customer needs, which is where technology comes in. The reservations and marketing operations of restaurants will continue to be transformed by the application of cloud computing technology in 2012. Tenwick believes it boasts strong similarities with other digital markets such as recruitment at the beginning of the decade – highly-dispersed players, massive data volumes and a clear opportunity for traditional brands to grow through a digital presence.

The next big thing
For those not yet considering mobile, Livebookings predicts that one out of every five online reservations made in Europe will come from mobile by 2012. Restaurants like Strada, Giraffe, Prezzo and Café Rouge are already benefitting from Livebookings’ Pocket Diner solution in a bid to optimise their web presence and take advantage of the new generation of mobile web users. Few would deny the importance of social media in the restaurant space. As customers become more web-savvy it makes complete business and brand sense for restaurants to engage with them through channels like Twitter and Facebook.

Brands like Giraffe are reaping the rewards of using social media to drive more diners through its doors and meet growing demand for mobile bookings. The restaurant chain has successfully integrated its online reservation system with its social media profiles to make the bookings process easier and enhance the customer experience.

At a time when many businesses are under increasing financial pressures and when consumers are demanding more value, restaurants need to look at new ways to become robust and profitable. By embracing the boom in online, mobile and social media platforms whilst also providing consumers with the traditional experience they love and trust, the restaurant sector can effectively and efficiently market their business and will be well placed to move into 2012, ready to tackle the myriad challenges faced by every consumer-facing industry.