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Monday, June 03, 2013

Managing Wait Time in Food Service Operations

A restaurant can significantly impact both sales and profit results through effective management of the guest experience.  Specifically, the number of guests served is dependent on the number of people who arrive at your restaurant to have a meal and the service time required to prepare and deliver great meals.

Restaurant patrons spend lots of time waiting for service.  They may wait to speak with the hostess.  After negotiating with the hostess, there is often a wait to be seated.  Once seated, guests wait for the server to explain specials, take preliminary drink orders and answer menu related questions.

Once the guests have decided what they wish to order, there is a wait to place the order and another wait while the food and drinks are being prepared.  The initial delivery starts a process of enjoying the meal and giving the wait staff feedback.

There could be a second order if the initial order was limited to appetizers and drinks.  Guests wait again for the main course to arrive.  Often there are waits for food to be cooked again or for a requested condiment.

At the end of the main course, many guests are interested in either a dessert or an after dinner drink.  These items arrive faster than the main course and patrons interested in the dessert course are often not in a rush to leave.  On the other hand, some patrons just want a cup of hot coffee delivered quickly along with the check.

Once the final course is over, the guest will look for the wait staff to request the check.  Time waiting for the check to arrive should be short.  Too often, guests wait for many minutes before the check presentation.

Picking up the cash or credit card and completing the transaction also takes time.

Out in the kitchen, the number of orders in the queue can get out of control.  Busy dining rooms produce hundreds of printed orders to be filled.  Delays in the appetizer course can dramatically impact the customer experience.  Attention to customer preferences often impacts the success of the main course execution.  Communication between the wait staff and the kitchen staff is documented on POS system printouts.  Expediters may see special instructions on when to fire an order.

Excellent servers are true artists.  They anticipate the guest's needs and insure the overall experience is top notch.  At the same time, these servers tend to understand the link between efficient service and their compensation which is predominantly provided by diners.

If your operation offers very large entree portions and generous side dishes, your guests may not have room for dessert.  Often guests will be willing to stand in line to receive great value for their dining dollar.  Portion size and food quality are key factors in the decision to stand in a long line.

Restaurant revenue in a value operation is highly dependent on table turns.  The faster tables are turned, the more guests are served per hour.  Since these guests have waited in the long line, they are expecting a different service environment than a fine dining experience.

It is possible to push guests through early plate pick ups, dropping the check earlier than expected and other speed tactics.  Don't make your guests feel they are being processed.  Service should be efficient but not rushed. 

Buffet guests avoid many wait time issues.  They may have to wait to be seated.  Normally, there is a wait for the beverage order.  Once the beverage order has been placed, they may find another line at one or more buffet stations.  Some buffet operators handle the checkout before the guest is seated.  This tactic eliminates the wait for a check from the server.

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