Managing Wait Times Like a Pro

Managing Wait Times Like a Pro

Long waits at restaurants can be extremely frustrating for customers.  They can also be hugely detrimental to your business.  You can lose customers who aren’t willing to wait, and receive negative reviews from people who were upset about the wait.  Managing wait times and keeping them under control can be a challenge, especially at your peak times.  However, there are a handful of things every restaurant can do to manage wait times more efficiently. 

Manage Expectations 

First and foremost, managing customer expectations is almost as important as managing the wait times themselves. It is important to note that you won’t always be able to prevent long wait times.  If you are hosting large groups or see an unusual surge in diners, wait times are bound to increase.  It is important, no matter how busy or empty you are, to always appropriately manage customer expectations.  Nothing is more frustrating for a diner than a wait time that goes beyond what you told them to expect.  You will find that if you are honest and upfront with your customers about how long they can expect to wait to be seated and served, they will be more patient than if you try to downplay it.  You can prevent tons of frustration, negative reviews, and poor experiences simply by being accurate and honest in your communications with customers.

Use a Reputable Reservations System 

Another way to keep wait times under control is by keeping your reservations organized.  Be sure to choose a solid reservation software that fits well with your brand’s needs.  There are a variety of services available, each with their own pros and cons.  Be clear about what capabilities a software needs to have to best serve your restaurant, and then do your research to find the software that most closely aligns with that.  The last thing you want is to be stuck using a reservation system that is missing one or more key components that you consider essential. A few of the most popular and widely-used softwares you might want to check out include Tablein, Resy, Open Table, and Eat.

Allow Customers to “Get in Line” 

In addition to a functional reservation system, it can be helpful to utilize a software that allows customers to “get in line” virtually.  There are a variety of apps and websites that offer this capability. With these softwares, customers can check the current wait time and put their name in line without having to physically come to the restaurant. They can also track their spot in line real time, so they can see how close they are getting to the front of the line. People are way more willing to wait from the comfort of their own home than in the crowded front entrance to your restaurant, and are more patient with a wait when they can see the progress they are making.  Making use of a virtual line software can help manage your line, and keep customers happier while they are waiting.

Don’t Overbook 

It can be tempting to fill your restaurant to the brim at all times.  Most owners and managers see an empty table as a missed opportunity to bring in more money.  While that is often true, you need to be careful not to overbook or overextend yourself.  Only seat as many people as your staff at a given time can comfortably serve.  If you are short-staffed, don’t fill every table in the place.  In the long run, it will benefit you to provide slightly fewer diners with a great experience and quick service, than to provide a handful more customers with a subpar experience and slow, frustrating service.  It goes against every instinct as a business owner, but sometimes, empty tables aren’t the worst thing.

Foster the Right Environment 

Finally, to really streamline your restaurant and make it as efficient and functional as possible, you will want to foster an environment of helpfulness and assistance amongst your employees.  The best way to do this is to lead by example.  As an owner or manager, when things get busy, you should be willing to step up and pitch in wherever you are needed.  Show your employees that you are willing to help them, and they will be more willing to help each other as well. If you can get to the point where your employees willingly seek to help each other out whenever they have down time, you will see your wait times decrease and customer satisfaction increase. 

With the 5 steps above, you can dramatically decrease the amount of time your customers spend waiting, and more effectively manage your restaurant. With the right software, the right mindset, and the right environment, wait times will be lower than ever, and your customers will be very grateful.

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