This brave new world of COVID has greatly altered the focus of restaurant management over the first half of this year and beyond. Gone for a while was any semblance of dining room service and taking its place was an explosion of online ordering and mobile ordering apps. But, depending on where you are, dining rooms are reopening, and your restaurant should work to eliminate lengthy wait times resulting from decreased capacity and pent up demand.
Here are just a few ways that you can enhance and optimize your waitlist service to make sure no one walks out on you before their table is ready.
This won’t be a viable option for many, especially in this time of social distancing, but take a look around. Is there space outside that could be turned into a patio? A back room that could be converted into added seating? It goes without saying that extra space means less wait time (and an increased bottom line).
On the one hand, it may seem the thing to do is to seat guests as they come in a kind of inclusive, first-come, first-served manner, and in general that’s true enough (excluding those who’ve made reservations, of course).
But what if you’ve got a waiting line through the door and into the parking lot and a party of two at the host station who says they’re waiting on four others to join them? Do you seat them or pass them over for a party that’s complete and ready to go?
The idea, of course, is to keep tables turning as efficiently as possible, and seating an incomplete party accomplishes just the opposite.
They’re going to wait to order until their joiners arrive, and who knows when they’ll arrive (or if they’ll be a no-show)? In the meantime you’ve got an unproductive table at which another party (that’s still waiting) could have been halfway into their entrees.
Seat the folks who are ready to get down to the business of ordering, and you’ll get everyone in and out much more efficiently.
Prep, prep, prep
Another great strategy for keeping those guests flowing is to work with your kitchen to optimize the efficiency of meal prep.
If your menu is filled with dishes that are labor intensive and time consuming to prepare, you might want to consider replacing some of them with dishes that can be completed more efficiently.
Of course, depending upon the type of cuisine you specialize in, this can be a challenging proposition (and if you’ve become known for certain dishes, you may not want to rock the boat by changing things up).
You can still shave valuable cook time by assuring that all menu item components are as fully prepped as possible ahead of time. The more quickly you can get orders to the tables, the less time other guests will spend wondering if they should skip the wait and just walk on over to the place next door.
The best way to keep wait times down and guests moving through the dining room is to invest in a good POS system that can not only manage your waitlist, but also increase the overall efficiency of your service.
Once they’re on the waitlist, OneDine’s Fireboard system efficiently keeps track of in-progress, future, and completed orders to provide an accurate estimate of how long they can expect to wait. A simple SMS message can inform them when their table’s ready.
While waiting, guests can browse the menu on their mobile device and also review special offers and suggestions based on their prior dining habits, reducing the time needed to review the menu at the table.
Once seated, your customer taps a sensor to check in, which notifies a team member through a tablet or watch that they need assistance. Orders can be taken by the server using the tablet, or submitted by the customer on their own mobile devices. The tablet can also be left at the table and switched into self-service kiosk mode. Customers can then add, modify, and pay for their order independently.
With the OneDine system, guests can experience safe, contactless payment with a variety of options and in a variety of situations. Diners can simply tap the table sensor to pay the check that’s in the POS. No unnecessary contact. No waiting for a server. And the faster guests can make that payment, the faster you can get the table ready for the next party.
When the world is throwing new challenges at you every day, you can use all the help you can get. Let technology be your friend. Your guests and your bank account will thank you.