preloadExteriors or Makars restaurant with outdoor tables

Using OpenTable to secure a third of all covers at Makars Mash Bar

Learn how OpenTable helps Scottish restaurant Makars Mash Bar secure a third of all covers and tap into the London dining scene.


Type of restaurant:
Independent restaurant


United Kingdom


Year founded:

Bangers and mash. It’s a simple yet classic dish served at homes, restaurants and pubs across the UK. Head to Makars Mash Bar, though, and you’ll find a restaurant specialising in flavoured sausages (the bangers) and mashed potatoes (the mash). The unique and successful concept has seen Makars become a must-visit spot in Edinburgh, and it recently opened a new location in London’s Covent Garden.

With a new location comes a full-on marketing assault. That’s where Macha Burkhalter comes in. She’s the Head of Online Marketing at Makars and recently spoke to OpenTable about the restaurant’s success in Edinburgh, opening a new venue in one of London’s busiest neighbourhoods and the importance of using OpenTable to attract new guests.


A marketing mashup

In her role, Macha oversees just about everything to do with content creation, customer service, customer relationships and online reputation. It requires wearing many hats as she helps develop the Makars brand, whether on the restaurant’s social media channels, working with influencers, appearing on search engines, creating website content or managing guest reviews.

Macha says of her daily responsibilities, “We’re still a pretty small company, and I guess you could say I’m the online presence for Makars. I used to work front-of-house, but now I’m focused on the restaurant’s online reputation.

“The managers of both venues look after the day-to-day at the restaurant, and it’s my job to take care of all things marketing. That involves everything from examining reports to seeing how we can grow the business. Essentially, I cover all aspects of marketing Makars.”


The capitals

For years, Makars has been the spot in Edinburgh to sample local ingredients created for small batch dishes full of flavour. Its location in Makars Court makes it the perfect place for tourists as well as locals to stumble upon while wandering around Scotland’s capital.

Makar’s reputation has travelled far and wide. Indeed, its success led to a second restaurant opening in Covent Garden, one of London’s most popular and touristic neighbourhoods in the UK.

And it’s the London location that is currently the focus of attention. Macha and the team aim to build its profile, so Makars Covent Garden matches its Edinburgh counterpart. To achieve that, new diners are needed, which is where OpenTable comes into play.


Increasing awareness with OpenTable

Macha joined Makars in 2017, a couple of years after the restaurant’s launch. She notes how OpenTable was already in place when she arrived, saying, “I’m pretty sure OpenTable is the only booking system we’ve ever used.”

Opening a new restaurant requires quite an effort, primarily when it’s located some 400-plus miles from the original location. Fortunately, being familiar with OpenTable and how it helps attract diners was an advantage for Macha.

Makars Covent Garden implemented OpenTable from its June 2022 opening, using features like Boost Campaigns and Experiences to attract diners. Referencing how OpenTable helped promote the restaurant, Macha says, “I regularly use Boost campaigns and have also set up Experiences to let nearby diners know we’re here.”

“But I’ve also taken advantage of the email marketing feature to let our Edinburgh guests know about the London location. Doing so has given me access to people who previously visited the Edinburgh location, so I could inform them we have an exciting new location in London.”

While the distance between London and Edinburgh is significant, it’s worth noting that hundreds and thousands of people travel between the two each year via train. Makars made the smart move of letting their core and loyal customers know they could get the iconic bangers and mash dishes on their next visit to London and built from an already-established foundation.


A unique experience

Macha is quick to mention the ease of using OpenTable, saying, “I’ve enjoyed using Boost Campaigns and setting up Experiences. The whole process is really straightforward and easy to set up.”

Experiences, in particular, allow Makars to blend its unique offering with the surroundings of Covent Garden. The Pre-Theatre Drink Experience is an ode to the famous West End scene that enables Makars to promote itself as an ideal spot before guests head off to watch a show.

It has been a success, too. Macha says, “The pre-theatre drink Experience works really well. As soon as we put that on, we immediately saw a spike in the bookings.”


Standing out from the crowd

Over the years, Makars has grown a strong following in Edinburgh. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant got several awards, such as the 2020 OpenTable Diners Choice Awards, and made it to the OpenTable top 100 restaurants in the UK in 2022 . And while that reputation carries weight in London, there’s no doubting the challenge required to stand out from the crowd of restaurants in an area that gets 44 million visitors per year.

OpenTable’s Boost Campaign has helped in that sense. Macha notes the importance of using features like Boost and Experiences to boost awareness, saying, “Most of the time, OpenTable’s network of diners is responsible for bringing in a third of our business, and in some weeks, it’s as much as half.

Using OpenTable allows Makars to increase reach, whether from tourists in the area or locals. “OpenTable plays such a huge role in bringing diners in, “Macha says. “It has essentially put us on the map in Covent Garden,” she continues.


Full-on restaurant support

Makars is no stranger to using OpenTable, but it’s a different ball game when it comes to opening a new location. At times, Macha and the team have tapped into the customer support team for additional help around utilising OpenTable to set up a new restaurant location.
Macha notes the different purposes OpenTable serves at each venue, saying, “In Edinburgh, we use it to plan the day and look at bookings. It’s straightforward and doesn’t require any real need to talk to anyone.

“But it’s different in the London venue, where we implement more OpenTable features. Because of that, I’ve been in contact with the team and our Account Manager, Hayley, who has been so helpful in talking us through certain aspects.

Hayley has played a vital role, looking at our settings and suggesting ways to improve our presence and the overall experience. She’s suggested actionable insights as we enter the festive season to ensure Makars makes the most of OpenTable and draws in diners. That kind of additional input is beneficial.”


It’s all in the data

For all the marketing support OpenTable offers, Macha is most fond of the reporting provided by the platform. She says, “I love how you can analyse data from guests on OpenTable, getting insights into where they’ve come from and if they’ve visited several times.
That information is helpful as it lets us know more about how our guests think. For instance, our diners visiting the London venue tend to book around 24 hours before their visit, while in Edinburgh, they usually book two weeks in advance.
“It’s been interesting to see that info and understand how each location works regarding guest booking behaviour. The insights and the data we get have been extremely helpful.”


Makars and mash

Since opening in Covent Garden, Makars has gone from strength to strength, building a reputation similar to its Edinburgh location. The main reason for its success is the excellent food, fantastic service and unique offering. And OpenTable has been along for the ride, helping bring more diners through the door.

OpenTable undoubtedly impresses Macha. She finishes by saying, “It’s a seamless platform that can take care of restaurant operations and marketing for you. For me, OpenTable is a valuable partner because it brings in a significant chunk of our business, which is really cool.

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