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Restaurant customers appreciate the convenience of being able to make restaurant reservations online, but they also like the personal touch of telephone reservations. A study of 696 restaurant customers found that nearly one-third had made an online reservation. Those who made reservations online tended to be younger than those who did not, and online users also ate out more frequently. Those who made online reservations considered those reservations to be significantly more convenient than telephone reservations, and the online users also thought that websites gave more information about a restaurant than what they learned by calling on the telephone. At the same time, those online users felt that they had a better personal connection with the restaurant when they made telephone reservations. This tradeoff between efficiency and service perceptions points to a strategy of offering reservations via both methods. Emphasizing the convenience of online reservations may encourage customers to use the website, and that will give restaurant operators more information about their customers. Whether a restaurant uses a third-party reservation service or builds its own website, one key to ensuring a successful reservations process is to make the electronic process as straightforward as possible.


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