How Las Tapas de Lola is Managing Steady Growth

Three Business Customer
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On: 8 Jun 2017
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Las Tapas de Lola

A year on from our last visit to Las Tapas de Lola, we caught up with co-owner Vanessa Murphy to find out how business is going.

Have the restaurant’s communications solutions helped them as they evolved from a start-up to something more established on the Dublin dining scene?

Twelve months ago, when Las Tapas de Lola last featured on this blog, the conversation was about building a presence through social media, at the same time as building a reputation through their food – and their kissing! Their presence is now well established, though they’re far from becoming complacent.

“We were blown away with the response to Lola’s from day one, but we wanted to make sure that we maintained our close-knit, family-run restaurant that we dreamt of from the outset. Hopefully that’s what we’ll always be,” says Vanessa.

Need for Change

A year ago, Vanessa shared a key part of her social media strategy – focusing only on what worked best for them to avoid spreading themselves too thin. Now this strategy is being applied to all operations, to make sure resources are used in the best way.

When the restaurant first opened, they used a paper-based booking system with one direct line into the restaurant. This brought its challenges.

Open seven nights a week, Vanessa and her partner Anna were manning the phones and emails 24/7. At first, this meant working morning, noon and night in the restaurant, but later phones were transferred to Vanessa’s mobile (a withheld number) so she could work from her home office outside of restaurant opening hours. As we all know, most people don’t answer withheld numbers, so they knew something had to change.

Maintaining the Personal Touch

As a small restaurant with only 55 covers, Vanessa and Anna knew something had to change but wanted to maintain that personal touch.

“We introduced an internal online reservations system and a new phone system that transformed our lives. We still take all our reservations via phone and email (not via an online form) as we love to talk. You learn so much more about a customer from chatting to them as opposed to them simply booking online.”

Despite the workload of handling bookings directly, they didn’t want to change to automated booking and lose that interaction with their customers. The ideal solution for them was to hire a Reservations Manager and also adopt the 3Connect cloud telephony system.

“It’s given myself and Anna the freedom to grow our business, something we didn’t have for the first three-and-a-half years, manning the phones day in and day out.”

Adopting 3Connect meant the new manager didn’t need an office – she works from her home 40km outside of Dublin. Customers can still phone the restaurant number that’s always been there, and when she returns a call to confirm a booking or check details, the call comes from the restaurant number.

“The 3Connect platform means we have no break in service with our customers. Whether they call or receive calls from us at 9.30am on a Monday or 11pm on a Saturday, there’s always the one number, the one restaurant contacting them.”

If the restaurant is closed and the Reservations Manager is unavailable, calls are diverted to Vanessa’s mobile. She now has an app that means all calls that go from her mobile to customers appear as the restaurant number; ridding themselves of the problem of no one answering withheld numbers.

“Our response rate is much higher with our new phone system, and with our Reservations Manager working 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday. The new system also gives our Reservations Manager the freedom to work from home as she has two young kids. That was very important for us.”

Las Tapas de Lola

Managing More Staff

With 20 on the Lola team, managing staff rosters may not seem like a difficult job, but according to Vanessa there is room for improvement and that is an objective for the coming year.

“We have a team of 20 now and coordinating shifts can be tricky. We get around that with different WhatsApp groups for each group of staff – one for the kitchen team, another for the floor team, etc. It means everyone can keep in the loop wherever they are,” explains Vanessa.

“Just as our reservations were paper-based and we moved online (which transformed our work-life balance), our staff roster is paper-based and now needs to move online. That’s one of our challenges for this year.”