Before COVID-19 spread around the world, restaurants didn't have to worry about informing patrons when they might have come in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. They likely hadn't even heard the phrase "contact tracing."

Today's world is different.

In the past year, many restaurants have started collecting their guests' names and contact information to help with contact tracing efforts. In many places, it's simply good practice—but in some states, counties, and cities, it's required.

Managing these efforts is critical to reducing public health risks. And an online reservation system can help your restaurant succeed.

Restaurants respond to contact tracing orders.

Restaurants have tried several ways to collect, manage, and share their guests' information.

Some restaurants have stationed staff to collect information at the door. Some have put the task onto servers' plates. Others have asked guests to leave their contact information by filling out a card at the table.

The process isn't always seamless. Many guests are concerned about their privacy, and, despite government requirements and restaurants' best intentions, they're not always willing to give out their information freely.

An online reservation solution can be a valuable resource for contact tracing—and, broadly, for managing a restaurant in the age of COVID-19. By collecting guest information before a visit, restaurants can fulfill public health obligations and see a few fringe benefits, too.

Meeting requirements & delivering benefits.

The National Restaurant Association's COVID-19 Operating Guidance booklet encourages restaurants to "make technology your friend." Contactless payment systems, mobile ordering apps, and automated ordering solutions can help you conduct your business and reduce close contact, the association says. And consistent communication—through text messages and website updates—can help promote a safe environment. The association also urges restaurants to "consider a reservations-only business model or call-ahead seating to better space diners."

Whether you're legally bound to collect guest information or you're simply focused on providing a safe environment for your diners and staff, an online reservation system can help your restaurant in three significant ways.

Fulfilling mandates.

An online reservation solution captures guests' names, their contact information, and the date and time of their visits—the three components that contact tracers need. If your restaurant has to report information or contact guests about potential exposure, having data on a digital platform makes reporting and alerting much faster and easier.

Fostering positive guest interactions.

An online reservation system collects contact information before guests even enter your restaurant—avoiding longer wait times and interactions with your staff. Online reservation systems also help guests ensure that they can get a table amid restaurant capacity limits. In addition, your guests can detail any specific requests when they make their reservation or add themselves to the waitlist—helping you deliver the level of personalized service they deserve.

Improving business management.

By encouraging reservations, you can work within your restaurant's capacity limit and begin offering VIP-level service online with reservations or by utilizing a mobile waitlist that facilitates social distancing. A reservation system can also help you decrease no-shows and plan your labor needs and dining room seating more accurately. An online reservation system helps you know who's coming and when—which can drive operational performance and boost your bottom line.

Online reservations: the go-to solution.

Since March 2020, consumers have gotten increasingly comfortable interacting with restaurants through digital platforms. An online reservation solution is a next step in this evolving relationship. By using an online reservation tool, restaurant owners can better service diners and manage their business—and maintain a safe environment for both.

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