Just about all of us are familiar with the ubiquitous restaurant pager. Since their introduction in the early 1980’s, they have alleviated that frustrating wait for a table by allowing us to enjoy a refreshment at the restaurant bar secure in the knowledge that we will be notified as soon as a table is free.
From a restaurant management point of view, paging has also allowed more efficient table management and better utilization of staff resources. For example, waitstaff can instantly communicate to their patrons that a table is free, rather than having to wander around trying to locate them.
Today, restaurant paging comes in many different forms, and there are many several types of restaurant paging devices available.
Probably the most common is what is often referred to as the restaurant beeper. A simple wireless device, as was common before the widespread adoption of mobile phone technology, this unit typically buzzes or vibrates to alert customers that their table is free. The beeper is normally handed to a customer at the front-desk, allowing them to wander around freely within the immediate vicinity of the restaurant. For example, guests are free to take the pager to the restaurant bar or waiting area, and are quickly notified that their table is available by a beep or vibration on the pager. This is typically activated by a main unit located at the front-desk of the restaurant.
Now one of the more common devices in use is the restaurant coaster pager, and resembling a typical bar coaster, only somewhat bulkier and normally made of plastic. Manufacturers of the coaster pager have been quite innovative in developing this device such as to allow advertising on the side or on top as well which can assist the restaurant in their marketing activities, i.e. by promoting a special wine or dessert.
The downsides to the previous two types of restaurant pager units is theft that may occur, and ongoing maintenance and repair. Individual units can retail for up anywhere up to several hundred dollars, and the loss of just even a few of these a year can have a significant impact on the bottom-line of a restaurant operation.
However, the future may lie in the latest evolution in restaurant paging with the use of SMS messaging, which effectively allows restaurant staff to communicate to customers via a computer or iPhone direct to their mobile phone. With the use of specialist software, this system is becoming an increasingly popular, and cost-efficient, method of customer paging in restaurants and no doubt will be the dominant system in the near future.
In addition to the standard paging service, this system can also be used to build an in depth database of customers and will help restaurants in future marketing activities.