Table management is an important skill to master when working towards making a profit in your restaurant business. It can be broken down into yours and your staff’s working knowledge of:
- The restaurant’s floor plan
- Which tables are filled and by how many people
- How long guests have been seated at their tables
- How much time it takes to turnover a table
- Which guests are up next
Managing tables efficiently through well-devised processes is one of the fastest ways to make money. The more turns you have, the more guests you can serve and the more sales take place. When done effectively, it also helps you understand your restaurant’s traffic patterns and measure growth over time.
In a nutshell, table management helps you grow sales, keep customers happy and save money — all of which lead to more revenue in the long run. Every restaurant has some basic form of table management in place, but if you’re ready to make it a central part of your money-making strategy, read on.
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Choose a POS system that makes life easy
Running a restaurant is tough work, so the Restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system you invest in should be built to keep things moving. All tools and features should run from one simple app to provide an integrated view of your business, not a siloed one — disconnected insights lead to poor choices and more work for you. It should also give you the autonomy to manage multiple locations and staff from anywhere, so that you’re never tied to a desk in the back office.
A point-of-sale system that tracks everything from sales to the time your employees check in helps you tackle the strategic side of table management. With a deeper understanding of your busiest times, how long certain customers take to come and go, which items are upsold the most and whether staff are keeping up with demand, you can make adjustments in the moment and long term.
And, if your POS can sync with a comprehensive restaurant booking system such as OpenTable, it’s at table management win-win all round. Diners will enjoy a seamless experience, from making a reservation to leaving a glowing review. You’ll enjoy the fact that most of your routine table management tasks are done for you - and all from one single dashboard.
With an OpenTable integration, both front and back-of-house can track in real time where every customer is at in the coursing cycle - starters, mains, desserts, or whether they have paid. It also gives you valuable table management insight you can leverage, such as average spend per head, shift performance, guest behaviour and turn times.
Use insights to develop and manage your staff
Employee management and table management go hand in hand. By analysing the data collected by your point-of-sale system, you can see where staffing arrangements are working and how you can maximise their impact. If the data shows that some of your staff seem to be struggling out on the floor or missing upselling targets, you then have the knowledge to help them out with training.
Insights from the POS can also help you rota staff and prepare food more effectively. Armed with the knowledge of when your quietest and busiest times are, unnecessary outgoings can be cut back and demand served accordingly.
Calculate your table turnover rate
Calculating your table turnover rate will reveal how long guests occupy tables during a particular time window. This is useful for working out which times of day or sizes of party slow down the table management processes you have in place. The formula is simple:
Table Turnover Rate = Number of Seatings ÷ Number of Tables
For example, if your lunch period runs 12pm to 3pm and you sit 15 parties within that time on your 5 tables, your table turnover rate would be 3 turns per table. After running this formula at different times on different days, during different seasons, you’ll begin to see which periods are your most profitable and which need better management.
Distribute customers evenly
It may seem basic, but restaurants should plan the order of sittings so that waiting staff don’t get overwhelmed as the place fills up. This means splitting up your seating plan and arranging guests so that each area of the dining space is filled systematically. Other restaurant front of house staff like your welcome host can be used to manage the seating process whilst your waiting staff prepare the tables.
Make your tables work in the space
The sizes of table you have should take into account how big your space is and the type of customers you serve. For example, if you’re in a popular tourist destination and regularly host large groups in summer, you should have several big tables available that can also convert to smaller options in the low season.
The simple way to ensure you have the right kind of seating is to keep track of the party sizes you serve each day. Then use that information to determine what sizes of table are most useful and what times of year you may need to change those sizes.
Listen to your customers
After a busy weekend, the last thing you may want to do is trawl through complaints and suggestions online. Still, these thoughts are a valuable resource for figuring out how your table management can be improved. Instead of relying on public channels like Facebook and TripAdvisor though, an internal customer feedback system enables you to listen, respond directly and even send refunds or vouchers with absolute privacy. Your business get better and so does the quality of your online reviews.
Create processes — and stick to them
Waiting staff manage tables well when their job is made easier. Serving stations, for example, should be close to hand so that water and utensils can be replenished within moments. You might also give each employee a pocket size card reader so payments can be taken on the spot. Ask your waiting staff what slows them down or gets in the way of them doing their job, design clear, step-by-step processes and create training exercises so that everyone knows what’s expected. Regular team catch ups show great leadership, keep staff engaged and help them stick to the processes you’ve outlined.