Running one of the busiest hotel restaurants in Dublin can be hectic. Ed Corrigan, Operations Manager at Sophie’s Restaurant at The Dean Hotel, explains why OpenTable is the restaurant’s reservation platform of choice.
Type of restaurant:
3 locations in Ireland
Dublin’s food scene is thriving, and Sophie’s Restaurant is one of the most in-demand spots in the city. Located in The Dean Hotel, and owned by Press Up Hospitality Group, Sophie’s is a modern rooftop restaurant right in the heart of Dublin. It has made its name with tip-top service, great food inspired by New York and Italy’s cuisine and a sought-after rooftop location with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. It is, as they say, a place where the ‘weather is the wallpaper’.
Only a five-star service is acceptable at a spot where there’s so much demand, from the team running Sophie’s to the systems it uses to operate the restaurant. Ed Corrigan, Operations Manager at Sophie’s @ The Dean Hotel, spent five years as the general manager of Sophie’s, so he knows what an excellent restaurant setup looks like.
We talk to Ed about life at Sophie’s and why OpenTable is the restaurant reservation platform of choice.
Today, Ed is the Operations Manager at The Dean, overseeing all aspects of the hotel and looking after 200-odd guests. He notes that Sophie’s is “one of the busiest restaurants in Dublin.”
On a recent Monday night, the restaurant served 216 people, which is 34% higher than most restaurants in the area can expect at the start of the week with no special celebrations planned. It means there are, on average, two-and-a-half turnovers, not to mention a typical Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, which also see a high volume of guests.
It can be stressful for the team, with so many diners coming and going in the space of a few hours. Fortunately, Sophie’s uses OpenTable to manage reservations, which Ed calls a “life saver”.
He says, “Sometimes we can do up to an average of three turnovers on a Saturday night, and OpenTable helps make our job much easier. I’ve used other booking systems in the past in previous roles, and I find that OpenTable is just leaps and bounds above anything else”.
Ed describes Sophie’s as a ‘two-hour restaurant’, with its excellent food and central location leading to high demand, which means they often need the table back within a couple of hours. OpenTable’s table management system offers clarity over how long a diner has been at a table and allows employees at Sophie’s to keep tabs on who is on what course and how long they’ve been at the restaurant.
Ed says, “It’s really important that we have the correct information coming to us about how long guests have been at the table. It’s not that we want to get rid of them, but the demand for the restaurant means there’s pretty much a two-hour turnover.
“The team can look at OpenTable and see 15 minutes left on the guests’ table. Having that information to hand allows us to keep on top of everything and ensure tables are ready for diners.”
The spend per head is important at any restaurant, but Ed is keen to emphasise that guests also have a great experience. “We’re busy because we’ve cultivated a reputation for service, and it’s imperative that we keep that up.
“We’ve always been pretty laid back, so it’s not about kicking someone out of their table. What OpenTable does let us do, however, is get total oversight. So if the staff do need to communicate with a guest, we have that visibility.”
Ed swears by OpenTable, saying, “It essentially does our job for us in many ways, which means we can focus on customer interaction and providing them with excellent service. Yes, I still need to walk the floor, but OpenTable has all the required information relating to the restaurant setup.
“It allows us to personalise experiences for guests, be it someone’s birthday or if there’s a special occasion. Once upon a time, we had to do all that manually, but now we can just look at OpenTable and get important diner details in a few taps.”
Ed is also a fan of the layout, saying, “It’s all so intuitive, which makes it easy to use across the board. In terms of the user interface, it’s just fantastic. And if there is an issue, I can get in touch with one of the teams at OpenTable, who are always really helpful. They’re quick to resolve any problems if they arise and are always on the end of the phone offering assistance.”
Managing the restaurant’s day-to-day is more seamless using OpenTable, with Ed describing OpenTable as a helpful “handover” that makes everything run smoothly.
“You’re prepared before going into a shift. It’s not like before when you’d have to manually go through details regarding that shift. Now, we know how many people to expect, when they’re coming in, etcetera. We can drill everything down to the minute, meaning the kitchen never gets overawed, and we’re always comfortable.”
Ed also sees OpenTable’s relationship management solution as somewhat of a “personal diary”. He says, “We can use features like Guest Profiles to get to know diners better and see who will be at what table. For example, we get a lot of corporate guests, with Sophie’s being situated within the Dean’s Hotel, and we need to know who they are.
“OpenTable lets us know what’s happening before anything occurs, so I know if there’s a corporate event or a wedding on the terrace. I already know what’s happening. It’s already settled and ready to go.”
As well as helping to run the restaurant, Sophie’s uses OpenTable to market the restaurant. While Sophie’s reservation numbers are up significantly post-Covid for lunch and dinner, brunch numbers were down at one stage. “We weren’t sure why considering every other mealtime was performing so well.”
To rectify this, Ed’s Team launched a Boost Campaign just for brunch and good results quickly came through: weekend brunch covers went up to 2,132 from 1,695 in the previous period, a 39% increase.
The Dean is just one of the hotels in the Press Up Hospitality Group portfolio, and many of the venues use OpenTable. Ed is quick to mention this, saying, “The Guestbook feature is great for us. We use OpenTable across all our venues, which offers complete synergy.
“If, for example, there’s an issue with a customer in one of the restaurants – perhaps they tried to leave without paying, for example. Such an incident is noted on OpenTable, so if they try to book at one of our other locations, we’re already aware of them and can act accordingly.”
Ed actually believes OpenTable gets better as it’s used across more restaurants. Mentioning how the restaurants benefit from using OpenTable for multiple venues, Ed says, “I have complete visibility in one place over how all the restaurants are performing. I can see notes from managers and other important information.
“Beyond that, I know if we have VIP guests who regularly dine across our locations. I can use that information to enhance their next visit, perhaps offering a glass of wine in the house.
“Having visibility of our other restaurants also gives us a better understanding of general performance. When Sophie’s wasn’t quite hitting the numbers for brunch, we saw that our brunch numbers were still high across other venues. This gave us confidence as we realised people still liked dining during this time of day and therefore used the Boost Campaign to get Sophie’s back on track.”
Feedback is a priority for any restaurant, and it’s no different at Sophie’s. Ed notes how OpenTable’s review management is helpful for the team. He says, “We’re currently at about 4.4 out of 5 for reviews [on OpenTable], which obviously looks good for us when people are searching for somewhere to eat.”
“But it also allows us to respond to customers and improve our services. We make sure every review is answered, so there’s that communication. Plus, I can attribute reviews to team members. If someone leaves a glowing review, I can see who served them.”
For Ed, it’s clear which reservations platform restaurants should use. As he says, it’s “the ease of use…, not to mention the fact that everyone knows OpenTable – from the restaurant to diners. “
“It’s leagues ahead.”
Ed Corrigan, Operations Manager
Sophie’s at The Dean
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