How to Reduce Waiting Time at Your Restaurant

How to Reduce Waiting Time at Your Restaurant
No one likes waiting. Here are a few ways to reduce restaurant wait times and staff accordingly. Your customers will thank you.
by Colleen Egan May 09, 2019 — 3 min read
How to Reduce Waiting Time at Your Restaurant

Restaurants with crowds and long wait times can be a sign of a popular, successful business. But it can also point to disorganisation, and customers aren’t usually fans of crowds and long wait times. If they experience these at your restaurant, they might not return. If your restaurant is plagued with these issues, don’t lose hope. It is possible to boost efficiency so that customers spend less time standing around and more time enjoying their food. These tips will help reduce your restaurant’s waiting time.

Focus on staff training

From the moment customers walk through the door to the time they pay their bill, there are many opportunities for your employees to streamline the dining experience. Unfortunately, there are just as many ways to create inefficiencies and contribute to long wait times. Evaluate processes and see where your staff can improve on things like turnaround time. Then retrain your staff to focus on removing any bottlenecks and improving the overall flow.

What is turnaround time? It’s the time one set of customers occupies a table, and it determines the number of sales you do per service. A well-trained staff is the key to restaurant timing and flow. Successful restaurants know to strike a good balance between not making customers feel rushed and serving as many people as possible. Data suggests that 45 minutes is the optimal turnaround time, while the average wait time for restaurants is 23 minutes.

Invest in technology

Staff can reduce restaurant wait times, but quality technology helps, too. Adding a technology element can help you reach the next level of efficiency. For example, Square for Restaurants is a point-of-sale system with hardware, software, and payments that you can customise to fit your business’ needs. Your front-of-house staff can sync up with your back-of-house staff. They can send orders to the kitchen, make changes if needed, and even control the pace of the meal. When it’s time to pay, servers can do things like split the bill, add automatic gratuity for large parties, and even reprint receipts to keep things moving and reduce turnaround time. The system also lets you track how long each table has been seated and colour-code to prompt servers to turn the table.

Rethink front-of-house staffing

If your restaurant does a robust take-away business in addition to sit-down dining, you need to staff up accordingly. When customers walk through the door, you want to know whether they’re there for pickup or waiting for a table. So, in addition to clear signage, add dedicated employees to staff the take-away side of your business.

At particularly busy times, have an employee separate customers into groups and get them checked in to drastically reduce waiting time and confusion. Adding a mobile payment option enables employees to bring orders directly to customers. It also allows them to process their transactions from the comfort of your waiting area or bar instead of making them stand in a long line.

Reconsider bookings

If your restaurant is walk-in only, but you consistently attract eager crowds and have to turn away potential customers, maybe it’s time to rethink your policy. For example, if you decide to accept bookings for parties of six or more, you can schedule servers in advance. Even if you opt to accept just a limited number of bookings and leave the rest of your tables open to walk-ins, it would go a long way towards cutting crowds to reduce restaurant wait times. This can give you a better sense of what to expect from day to day, which helps you better plan staffing and supplies.

Reservations help bring order to the chaos. You don’t want customers walking away frustrated and complaining on social media after they couldn’t get a table at your restaurant. You want them seated and fed within a decent waiting time so that you can build a loyal following of satisfied customers.

Running a business is no easy feat, but Square is here to help. We have all the tools you need to start, run, and grow your business, whether you’re selling in person, online, or both. And we’ve made all our tools to work together as one system, saving you time and money—and making decisions easier. So you can get back to doing the work you love and focusing on whatever’s next. See how Square works.

Colleen Egan
Colleen Egan writes for Square, where she covers everything from how aspiring entrepreneurs can turn their passion into a career to the best marketing strategies for small businesses who are ready to take their enterprise to the next level.


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