Edwardian Hotel Group increases reach and boosts F&B bookings with OpenTable

From May Fair to Leicester Street Kitchen, see how they utilise OpenTable to increase reach and boost bookings at the Edwardian Hotel’s restaurants.

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Type of restaurant:
Restaurant Group

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Locations:
4 locations in the UK

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Year founded:
1977

After just a few minutes of listening to Sheetal, it becomes evident that he is someone who knows the hospitality industry inside out. Not only is he incredibly insightful, but there’s a passion in how Sheetal delivers his words when talking about his 18 years at the Edwardian Hotel Group.

Altogether, he oversees every Edwardian hotel and restaurant, most of which are located in prime central London locations. With so much responsibility on his shoulders, Sheetal and his team need access to platforms and tools ready to smooth operations and make life that little bit easier. 

That’s where OpenTable comes in, which the Edwardian uses for marketing and operations at its F&B venues. We recently sat down with Sheetal to unearth his vast knowledge about the hospitality industry and see how OpenTable helps the Edwardian Hotel Group achieve its targets. 

Landing on his plate

Sheetal cut his teeth working in the finance departments for PlayStation and a software house before transitioning to the hospitality industry. As he puts it, “hospitality just kind of landed on my plate. I remember saying to the finance director in the interview, ‘one thing I can guarantee you is five years.’”

Those five years turned into 18 years and are ongoing. Today, he is the Head of Operations for the Edwardian and oversees the entire hotel group, including properties in Manchester, as well as restaurant brands like Steak & Lobster and Scoff & Banter.

During his time, Sheetal has gone from working in finance for the Edwardian to covering commercial operations. Reflecting on the move, he says, “I arrived in the commercial department about five years ago. It offered a change and a different style to what I did previously.”

“The chairman, Jasminder Singh,  gave me an opportunity, as he wanted to bring financial analytics over to revenue management, for the rooms, M&E and F&B. He felt I was a good fit to achieve that.”

Doing ‘more’ for F&B

One of Sheetal’s ongoing tasks involves extracting even more from the F&B side of operations. He says, “one of the key reasons I came into the commercial department was to understand how we can get more people sitting at tables and turn them over, using smart analysis for a smoother operation.”

To do that, first, Sheetal looked at the room side of operations, where there was a robust revenue management system already in place. They looked at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire as an example to see how the process around rooms could work for F&B. “About two years ago we examined how rooms performed, then took some of that knowledge and applied it to the F&B set up at the Leicester Square Kitchen, which is located in the Radisson Blu Hampshire hotel. The result was an uptick in bookings and a smoother process.”

Those management systems – whether for rooms or the restaurants – play a key role in operations and allow for increased transparency across all aspects of the business, including F&B.  

Getting analytical with OpenTable

With so many restaurants operating at once, the business needs a platform that can run across all venues and form part of the day-to-day process. For Sheetal, OpenTable has been the ideal partner in this regard. 

He says, “We’ve had a long-term relationship with OpenTable and used it for the past five years as our primary source for reservation booking across F&B. We use the analytics it provides us and put those into practice to see which channels are bringing in the most success.”

“We’re also looking at the effectiveness of marketing and seeing how all of our different activities come together to form a tightly-knit process that maximises each one of our restaurants.”

‘Being on the shelf’

Marketing is a crucial aspect for the success of any business, and Sheetal notes the importance of getting eyes on the Edwardian’s venues. He says, “we want to be on the shelf, so people can find us with ease, especially as we operate in prime areas where competition is high.” 

Sheetal works closely with the commercial division to ensure messaging is succinct and on point. He specifically mentions the Peter Street Kitchen in Manchester and the Leicester Square Kitchen as two places that have benefited from smart marketing. 

He says, “Within three to four months we won an award for the best British Restaurant and Luxury Restaurant at Peter Street. And with the Leicester Square Kitchen, the BBC came and filmed an episode of MasterChef shortly after we opened.

“Not only does this kind of recognition go to show the quality of our restaurants, but it also weaves together with other marketing efforts. Being featured on the BBC does wonders for word of mouth and gets people talking about our venues.”

The opportunity that comes with exposure on a popular BBC cooking programme is priceless. But it can’t be the only way to drive the restaurants forward and get people through the doors. This is where OpenTable also plays a role in attracting guests and alerting them to the presence of each venue.  

Talking about how OpenTable helps with attracting new diners, Sheetal says, “Being on OpenTable increases our reach, as it’s the biggest platform out there for restaurants. OpenTable and the Edwardian go hand-in-hand in that aspect, whether we’re hooking onto its regular promotions around special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, using Experiences or we’re working with its team to create special bespoke promotional opportunities.”

“For example, the team there might feature our restaurant as a primary location to go out to the entire OpenTable database. We love getting involved in those types of activities as it helps boost our restaurants while increasing our reach.”

Offering a consistent message

Sheetal says OpenTable offers consistent advertising. “While we might not see the benefits of featuring on something like OpenTable right away, it lets diners know we’re here and open for business.”

“If you keep seeing the same advert again and again, then, subconsciously, you start thinking about that product or service, and it gets to the point where you’re actively intrigued and want to know more.”

“It’s the same with being on OpenTable, which offers a similar approach as it lets diners know we’re ready for bookings, whether it’s the May Fair, Leicester Street Kitchen or any other location in our portfolio. 

“They keep seeing us on OpenTable, and they become intrigued, eventually going on to find out more and reserving a table at our restaurant.” 

It seems to be working, too, as Sheetal notes that OpenTable is responsible for 49% of Edwardian’s restaurant bookings. 

The customer journey 

A watertight marketing strategy is necessary, but so too is the experience guests receive once they’ve decided to dine at one of the Edwardian’s restaurants. From booking a table to sampling the food, the customer experience is synonymous with every aspect of a restaurant. 

Sheetal is well aware of creating an excellent experience that leaves people happy and eager to return. And he believes it all begins with the customer booking process, whether directly through the restaurant or with a third party. 

“I love OpenTable’s functionality, as it’s so easy for diners to book a table. With just a couple of clicks, they’re all set, and I think that plays a huge role in why so many people use it to find a restaurant.”

“We want to then continue that process once they walk through our doors, whether it’s the May Fair Bar, Leicester Street Kitchen or one of our other venues. The customer’s experience is key, from booking a table to ordering food and sampling our menu.”

Personalisation is another important factor in the customer journey. Sheetal understands that people demand more now from their experience, especially when dining at a restaurant. 

He cites OpenTable as a key driver for providing the Edwardian F&B venues with more data on diners that helps them to offer a more bespoke service. “OpenTable captures data that allows us to better understand our guests, whether it’s what they’ve been eating when they dine and so on.

“This means we can tailor experiences to each diner specifically. For example, if someone is vegan, we can send them a message to let them know all about our vegan menu. If someone enjoys a specific wine with us, we can tell them about a wine tasting masterclass coming up.”

For Sheetal, the personal touch holds plenty of weight. He sees the benefit of sending messages to individuals rather than solely relying on promotional communications to the entire customer base. With the data from OpenTable, it’s possible to send crafted messages aimed at specific personas and give them a better dining experience. 

The key elements of a great partnership

Sheetal is quick to praise the partnership with OpenTable, giving a special mention to the support team in place. “The account managers are basically on there 24 hours a day, responding to queries and ensuring that everything runs smoothly.

“When there are issues, they’re always quick to follow up and ensure everyone is kept in the loop. It’s these little touches that show how much care goes into OpenTable, and this is reflected by the service they offer.”

Sheetal also admires the customisable options. “Using OpenTable is a bit like playing with a toy – you can move bits around and see different kinds of pictures. It’s very agile, whether you’re setting up Experiences, looking at shift patterns or designing specific dining areas within the restaurant, allowing guests to pick outdoor seating, for example.”

Quadrupling covers with OpenTable features

Sheetal is particularly praiseworthy of the dining areas functionality. He believes it played a vital role in keeping the restaurants busy during Covid. He says, “with OpenTable, we’ve been able to let diners know they can sit outside for a meal. 

“For example, many people didn’t know the May Fair has an outside terrace area. However, through OpenTable, we were able to communicate the outdoor dining capabilities with guests, and we were inundated with bookings as a result. 

“Covers quadrupled because we had the platform to let people know that outside dining was available, which all came through OpenTable’s distribution.”

Acting like a Pro

Looking at how they can get even more out of OpenTable, the Edwardian venues have moved onto the Pro Plan. Sheetal says that switching to Pro has “given us more insights to diner information and booking trends.”

“We can check spend against an individual and see what they’ve ordered, which allows us to offer them an even more personalised service the next time they dine with us. We’re still new to the Pro Plan and are currently accumulating the data, which I believe will give us an even better indication of how to run our F&B venues in the future.”

‘You can’t underestimate the importance of reach’

For all of the benefits Sheetal notes about using OpenTable, it’s the reach that really stands out for him. He sees it as the most important aspect, and it’s something Sheetal believes OpenTable excels at compared to its competitors. 

He says, “Distribution is easily one of the key reasons why we use OpenTable. I believe they’re number one in the UK.”

Complimentary words from the man who knows everything about hospitality. And as his team spends more time with OpenTable’s Pro Plan and delves into the data, the partnership will improve further, enabling the Edwardian restaurants to grow from strength to strength. 

“We’ve had a long-term relationship with OpenTable and use the analytics it provides us and put those into practice to see which channels are bringing in the most success.”

Sheetal Varia, Head of Operations
Edwardian Hotel Group

sheetal edwardian
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