• June 30, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

New IVR Lets Eatery Group Net More Phone Calls—and Business

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Hogsalt opened its first Chicago restaurant, Gilt Bar, in 2010. Since then, its portfolio has expanded to include 10 other eateries offering everything from French, Japanese, and Italian cuisine to chops, seafood, and doughnuts. The company serves thousands of guests each day across all of its locations.

But even more telling was the number of patrons who wanted to eat at one of Hogsalt's locations and couldn't because they couldn't get through to make a reservation.

Many of Hogsalt's restaurants serve only dinner, so typically employees wouldn't show up until the early afternoon. "We were getting a lot of calls that went unanswered because no one was there," says Ryan Wagner, director of operations at Hogsalt.

"As our restaurants became more prominent, we wanted to accommodate more people without having to hire additional staff at each location to answer phones," he adds.

"Just because your doors are closed doesn't mean your phones have to be," says Irv Shapiro, CEO and chief technology officer at DialogTech, which Hogsalt enlisted to help solve its quandary. "The customer-buying journey doesn't have hours of operation, which is why DialogTech empowers our customers to properly track, route, and manage phone calls at any time of day."

In January, Hogsalt began rolling out DialogTech's interactive voice response (IVR) and call distributor technology across the four restaurants in its portfolio that take reservations: Bavette's, Gilt Bar, Maude's, and Cocello.

The voice-based technology has helped the restaurant group capture an additional $75,000 in net revenue monthly from reservation calls that it previously missed. The system has handled about 12,500 calls per month.

Now, all calls that come in during daytime hours Monday through Friday get routed to a central location that is staffed by two hourly employees. Before the agent picks up a call, DialogTech's system lets that agent know which restaurant the caller dialed in to. He can then issue the appropriate greeting, take the reservation, and enter it into a central system that manages reservations and tables at all four of the locations. "In essence, the agents can be in four locations at once," Wagner says.

In the event a caller can't get through to a live person, she can leave a voicemail message that the system transcribes and sends to the respective restaurant manager's email or phone.

And when one restaurant is unable to accommodate a guest, the agent can sell the caller on one of Hogsalt's other properties.

As a result, "we're seeing positive trends in sales at all our restaurants," Wagner says.

When he was researching IVR and call routing solutions, Wagner found that many vendors would require Hogsalt to purchase new and costly hardware. DialogTech (formerly Ifbyphone) won out because it gave Hogsalt the flexibility to use any phone. "We liked [that] there's no hardware associated with it," Wagner says.

And while Hogsalt's two reservation agents currently work from a central office, DialogTech's technology gives them the option of working remotely.

Wagner also appreciated the one-on-one training he and others received from DialogTech. He called the level of service "invaluable," particularly during the deployment's early stages, when they had trouble getting the solution to work with Hogsalt's existing phone and Internet systems. "I was extremely impressed by DialogTech's commitment to Hogsalt's success," he says.

"Now Hogsalt is equipped with the tools needed to receive and book every reservation requested," DialogTech's Shapiro says. "We're proud of the contribution DialogTech has made toward Hogsalt's continued success."

If the boost in business leads to the opening of more restaurants, Wagner says Hogsalt will certainly add them to the DialogTech system. "We've been very happy with the solution so far," he states. —Leonard Klie



  • handled 12,500 calls per month that previously went unanswered;
  • captured about $75,000 in additional revenue each month; and
  • seen positive sales trends across all 11 restaurants it owns.


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