Service speed is a huge, but often overlooked, part of a restaurant's profitability. Guests don't like waiting any longer than they have to, and faster service means that a restaurant can host more guests in a day. Speedy service is one of the best ways to increase customer satisfaction and bring in more profits.
Research also shows that, as of April 2021, about 57% of people were comfortable dining indoors again, while 68% are comfortable eating outdoors. Increasing numbers of people are going back to fast-casual and sit-down restaurants, so there's a growing focus on efficiently serving these guests. Ever since COVID-19, going out to eat has taken on a special significance. People want swift service and a pleasant experience more than ever. Here are seven tips for improving your restaurant's service speed:
1. MAKE SURE ORDERS ARE ACCURATE.
Inaccurate orders don't just waste ingredients, they waste servers', guests', and chefs' time. Servers have to make multiple trips to bring back inaccurate orders, chefs need to waste their time preparing dishes again, and guests are stuck waiting for their food. Servers can even suffer lost tips. Fortunately, this is a pretty easy fix — instruct servers to repeat all orders back to guests to ensure accuracy. A few extra seconds verifying the order can save a lot of time.
2. PAY ATTENTION TO SCHEDULING, SALES, AND DEMAND
Some employees have different skills than others. Some servers are exceptionally upbeat and cheerful, others may be very fast. Identify each employee's strengths, and schedule them accordingly. Save your fastest employees for your busiest hours.
You should also compare your busiest hours and sales figures to your inventory. What dishes have the highest demand, and when? Families visiting for brunch after church are likely to want something different from the late Saturday night crowd. Keeping track of these things helps you forecast everything from scheduling to supply deliveries. This can make sure that you're prepared, and no time gets wasted.
3. PLAN OUT YOUR TRAINING.
"Trials by fire" aren't good for restaurants or employees. Avoid scheduling new workers for your busiest times. It takes extra time to train someone new, and they're guaranteed to make mistakes. Schedule them for slower hours, when the stakes aren't so high. As they learn and you're able to identify their strengths, you can transition them to working where they'll perform the best.
4. EXPLORE PAY-AT-TABLE TECHNOLOGIES.
Picture a guest finishing their meal, and waiting to pay. Their server needs to verify that they're ready to go, go to the point of sale, total up and print out their receipt, bring it to the guest, take the guest's payment, bring it back to the point of sale, put the payment through, then bring the receipt back to the table. If this sounds like a lot, it's because it is. It also takes a lot of time and unnecessary back-and-forth trips. Pay-at-table tech can help cut down on this wasted time and energy.
Tabletop tablets, QR codes, and other tech allows guests to pay directly at the table as soon as they're ready. Guests aren't left sitting and waiting to pay, and servers are free to perform higher priority tasks. When servers can interact with guests instead of having to run back and forth between tables and the register, it saves time and improves guest satisfaction.
5. LOOK AT YOUR LAYOUT.
Layouts are tricky. They're always a compromise between aesthetics and efficiency. The most attractive and comfortable layout for guests isn't necessarily the best for servers, and vice versa. Make sure that you have clear, efficient footpaths for employees to traverse. It'll not only cut down on wasted time, but it'll also reduce dropped dishes, wasted food, and the risk of injuries.
6. FOCUS ON CROSS-TRAINING.
If your back-of-house employees all specialize in the techniques and knowledge they need for their particular stations, what happens when one of them isn't there? If a single station goes down, it can take more down with it and dramatically slow your service speed. Take the time to cross-train employees so you can deploy them where they're the most needed.
7. PRACTICE PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE.
You can have the fastest, most capable employees in the world, and you'll still fall behind if you're not performing preventative maintenance. If you wait for a necessary piece of hardware to fail before repairing it, there's no guarantee that it won't go down in the middle of your busiest period. Preventative maintenance means scheduling routine maintenance and inspection tasks for your slowest times, so you don't have to worry about a vent or oven failing when you need it the most.
Running a restaurant efficiently means paying attention to a lot of different things. It's not enough to make sure that your servers are fast and accurate — you also have to take your suppliers, hardware, point of sale, and back of house into account. With these tips, you can help make sure that all of your employees and hardware work as efficiently as they can.