4 Ways to Shorten Wait Times at Your Restaurant

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23.09.2021 Business tips

4 Ways to Shorten Wait Times at Your Restaurant

Decreasing wait times is one of your biggest challenges.

Every restaurateur, bar, and café owner wants the hype that can be associated with wait times and queues outside their establishments — making it the local "It Spot". However, queues and extended waiting times can also signify something is amiss with your business. 

The reality is, diners don’t like wait times. In fact, the tolerance level of the food experience is low when this occurs. As a business owner, you want to work out a way to make the queues flow and minimise wait times — in turn preventing issues such as unhappy patrons, lack of crowd control, low table turnover, and a decrease in revenue. 

Here are some ideas to assist you in providing a more streamlined and pleasant experience for your patrons, which can lead to a big payoff for your business. 

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1. Prep the kitchen

The kitchen is the engine room of any hospitality venue. The way it's run, and the ease at which food is prepared, can impact a customer's overall experience at your establishment. Reassessing the menu is the starting point in assisting chefs and kitchen staff to ensure the kitchen isn’t a place of chaos and disorganisation. 

An extensive menu adds stress to the kitchen come service time. Considering limiting the items available and keep it simple — people often like condensed menus, as they aren’t overwhelmed with too much choice. Perhaps also consider including set menus for larger parties, so the flow of service is efficient, and the kitchen isn’t scrambling to have everyone’s individual meals on the table at the same time.

Fewer options on the menu can also assist in food preparation. Can the kitchen can pre-prepare any elements? Having the bases of your dishes pre-prepared will free up time in the kitchen and lead to lower wait times for diners. 

Another way to reduce wait times and better prepare your kitchen is to create signature dishes. As a restauranteur, you want to draw in the crowds by offering something that isn’t available at other cafes or restaurants in your vicinity — or something you're well-known for doing better than the competition. Not only will these dishes give you an edge against other competitors, they will also assist you in predicting the volume of ingredients required and help the kitchen prepare dishes well before the orders start to come through. 

2. Take bookings

Walk-in-only restaurants can lead to unsatisfied and frustrated would-be patrons, who are either turned away at the door or asked to wait outside for extended periods of time. This is an even greater risk while capacity limits are in place.  Having a booking system is a great way to control your table turnover and manage wait times, both inside and outside the restaurant. 

Taking bookings helps you manage your business in a couple of ways. 

  1. It cuts out crowds and wait times, ultimately assisting you to control the flow of your patrons and their overall experience, meaning they have a more pleasant experience and will likely return. Efficient service builds customer loyalty. This can also minimise the likelihood of bad reviews on social media and websites.
  2. Bookings help manage table sittings and staffing. For instance, if you have a number of large group bookings, this knowledge will assist you in assigning the proper staff ratio to your patron intake for the night. It will also assist in you having a better understanding of the day-to-day needs of the business. 

If you want to take it a step further, some businesses offer sitting times. This concept assists in knowing what table turnover will look like for the day. You may want to have a seating time of ninety minutes or two-hour for each reservation, for example.

3. Train staff to clear tables efficiently

Having properly trained wait staff is fundamental to your business. Training ensures service runs smoothly and efficiently, and leads to your diners having a great experience — ultimately attracting more patrons to your business.  

Customer service training will also ensure that your staff manage expectations and tend to diners promptly, from the time they enter to the time they leave. When it comes to concluding the diner’s experience, well-trained waitstaff will be able to read the room and understand signals that indicate a diner is finished with their meal. Not only will it be a better experience for your patrons, it will also lead to faster table turnover. Having diners tap their fingers or cutlery whilst they wait for their bill isn’t a good look for your business, or to the other diners. 

On the other hand, some diners like to linger — and getting them to leave so you can clear the table can be a delicate situation. This is where having the proper training to politely move them on comes in handy. After all, their time is your money. 

4. Take payment at the table

As a business owner, you know that great service begins from the moment someone walks through your doors to the moment they leave. Taking payment at the table is a nice touch to end your diner’s experience. It also has its benefits for your business, as it reduces the restaurant wait times saving up to nine minutes per table. 

Portable payment devices also have great features which can assist both waiters and diners. Your staff has the ability to add gratuity prompts and reprint receipts, all in the palm of their hand.  In short, a mobile EFTPOS machine will help staff finalise bills and clear tables faster. 

The hospitality industry is highly competitive. All of the above can assist merchants in starting a new restaurant, bar or cafe, rebranding an existing venue, or boosting their business. You may also want to consider investing in the latest restaurant technology – such as the Zeller Terminal, that will allow staff to effectively manage payments with ease and convenience for both you and your diners. 

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