The personal touch. That’s what it’s all about at Rijsel and Scheepskameel in Amsterdam. For years, owner Pieter Smits felt that accepting online reservations would be the opposite of this approach. Eventually he caved. What made him change his mind?
Years without an online reservation tool
In 2011, when Rijsel opened its doors, guests needed to call to reserve a table. Smits would only consider an online reservation tool if that tool would genuinely make his life easier. ‘In those early days, we just couldn’t find a system quite flexible enough to fit the flow of our restaurant. As in the online realm there’s no one-on-one interaction with guests, I stuck with my belief that accepting online reservations didn’t match my vision. Plus, reservations were going through the roof already. We booked a full house every night and the phone never stopped ringing.’
A great result: less phone calls during service time
Flash forward to 2019. Smits had just introduced an online reservation system at Scheepskameel, with great results. ‘It turned out guests loved it and reservations kept coming in. Much to our surprise, the number of incoming phone calls plummeted - especially during service time.’ Smits, recognizing an epiphany when he sees one, decided to start offering online reservations at Rijsel, shortly after. ‘Here, too, the number of phone calls took a nosedive, leaving us more time to pamper our dining guests.’
Still in love with phone calls
Looking back, switching to an online reservation system most definitely did not cause Smits to fall out of love with the phone. On the contrary, for the foreseeable future, Smits’ landline will stay intact. All guests that made an online reservation will get a personal phone call from one of Rijsel’s trained employees, confirming their table. Smits: ‘I strongly believe our dinner experience starts the moment we talk to our guests on the phone. Plus, those confirmation calls help to prevent no-shows, which is a nice bonus.’