How to maximise seating capacity and drive revenue with COVID restrictions

Two guests checking in with their restaurant reservation while the server is assigning their table looking at a tablet

Empty dining rooms are hopefully a thing of the past, at least in Australia as COVID-19 restrictions ease across the country. Yet as states open their borders and businesses open their doors, the restrictions still exist and require a new way of operating. 

In restaurants and cafes, cover numbers are limited and timed, which encroaches into a business’s average spend. To see how a hospitality venue can maximise revenue with these restrictions in place, we talked with a new restaurant in Melbourne, which, despite stopping and starting in 2020, has worked with OpenTable to maximise their revenue within COVID-safe guidelines. 

A new business’s perspective during lockdown

The team behind Poodle in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, planned to open in March 2020. We all know what happened in March – a national lockdown, which was followed in Melbourne by a second metro-lockdown after a short reprieve in June. 

Poodle Fitzroy’s co-owner Jacek Kowalski says he has found the last few months “pretty confronting,” but the team diversified their business during lockdown, opening Rocco’s Bolognese Discoteca in Poodle’s location. It’s here they sold big sandwiches and snacks takeaway-only, describing it as an “Italian Maccas.” 

The challenges with the capacity restrictions

Rocco’s proved so popular they are planning to give it its own location and life, but opening Poodle again needed attention in terms of reservations flow and capitalising on what they had to work with. 

“When we could open in late October, we set up a weather-proof courtyard and called it ‘Patio at Poodle’,” says Jacek. “We put in retractable awnings and thought it was a good idea to invest in that and cater for people outside.” 

When restrictions eased further, “we had to organise a sharper reservations method and the guys from OpenTable came in and talked to us, it was life-changing,” he says.  

The solution

Rather than looking at the restaurant as one space, OpenTable worked with the team at Poodle to find the capacity for each space within the restaurant, both in the dining room and in the courtyard. 

“It is very tricky to maximise capacity in current time due to density restrictions,” Jacek says, “and we can not really operate to full capacity. Saying that, we are doing our best to rotate bookings every two hours, utilising not only indoor space but also our courtyard, where density restrictions are smaller.”  

“The challenge was to create different capacity for different spaces. OpenTable recently introduced capacity per space, which helps adjusting to different requirements for inside and outside,” he says. “The OpenTable system is allowing us to utilise our maximum capacity within the restrictions and we can get on with looking after our customers. It’s been amazing!” 

OpenTable worked with Poodle on setting capacity for each shift and working within that capacity and current restrictions in terms of bookings and managing walk-ins. 

Get in touch with OpenTable to find out more about setting your maximum capacity to comply with restrictions and maximise your revenue.