There’s no getting around it, the restaurant business is tough. Just read even a sampling of Anthony Bourdain’s classic memoir Kitchen Confidential and you’ll get a taste of just how rough it can be. Low margins, demanding customers, temperamental chefs, a regular turnover of employees and inconsistent relationships with suppliers can drive even the most seasoned restaurant owner up a wall.
It might not be so easy on the customer either. According to a recent study, restaurants have wait lists an average of 6.6 hours per week, with parties waiting nearly half an hour on average for a table. Customer satisfaction can deteriorate with each minute they spend wait for service. Here are a few unique ways industry leaders are cutting out the wait.
Wait Management Systems
For a while in New York City, restaurants began implementing a “no reservations” policy that forced even the most patient restaurant customers to wait for hours for a table. Just getting into a comfortable two-top in Clinton became a waiting game. Want to drop in at David Chang’s Momofuko Noodle Bar for a romantic dinner? Fuhgeddaboutit. But ambitious restauranteurs who are more interested in making sales than creating a buzz or a unique atmosphere are increasingly turning to wait management systems that help them automate the seating process, monitor the restaurant’s eco-system and maximize their floor space for optimal business.
One of the great advantages of employing real-time video monitoring and a video-driven analytics platform is the ability to monitor and analyze the traffic in a restaurant. Wait times most often result from bottlenecks where the process of seating customers and accessing entry, exits, restrooms and the kitchen access slow down the process. Business schools teach the theory of constraints, which posits that the limitations of a system are almost always created by a small number of constraints. If those constraints can be identified on video and your restaurant’s traffic flow adjusted, long wait times can be mitigated, reduced or even eliminated.
Focusing on the Front End
Very often, customers end up waiting simply because they are in the wrong place. Investing in the front end of your customer’s experience can help ensure that they’re supposed to be in your restaurant in the first place. Putting up clear detailed information about your hours, menu, seating policy not only on your website but also supplementary applications like Google My Business and Yelp can help clarify the customer experience and make sure your customers are there at the right time and placed in front of staff that can actually help them.
Restaurants move fast, even when there’s a two-hour wait outside. Employing a video-driven monitoring system can help you as an owner get a much better picture of the outside and inside of your restaurant, allowing you to take action on daily operations quickly and rapidly make improvements to reduce wait times and improve the customer experience. Restaurants that use Envysion to improve operations can often realize vast improvements even without any increase in customer visits or sales.
Smart phone apps are a double-edge sword. Some people have put forth the observation that cell phone usage causes distracted patrons to take longer to order, take more time to eat, and much longer to pay and vacate the table. On the other hand, some restaurants are embracing apps like NoWait that drive patrons to their restaurants during less busy hours. Still others are using innovative applications like Qless, which texts customers wait times in real-time at the click of a button.
The beauty of an advanced video monitoring system and accompanying analytics is that these two systems, working in tandem, help you maximize efficiency in all areas. By optimizing how your restaurant operates, you can ensure that it is operating at a rate that utilizes your resources effectively. Using video driven analytics can improve performance by allowing you to employ accurate forecasting, labor planning, inventory and sales controls, and plan for upselling by your staff.