Panini’s Bar & Grill opened it’s first riverfront restaurant in May 1986, in the heart of Cleveland’s Flats entertainment district. Since then, Panini’s has grown from a late night beer and sandwich stop to a full-menu, casual dining restaurant. While most famous for their trademark “overstuffed sandwich”, customers now recognize the quality and value of Panini’s entire menu, and their excellent table-side service. Panini’s offers a variety of appetizers, salads, wraps, and many other items while maintaining a highly motivated staff providing excellent customer service.
With the growth of their business, Panini’s Franchise Group had incorporated hostesses at some of its high volume locations. Scott Fisher, responsible for Restaurant Development for Panini’s Franchise Group, was familiar with paging systems and how well they can affect a business. According to Fisher, when considering implementing a guest paging system into their operation, “Our expectation was to have a nice customer flow at the host stand, and create a relaxed atmosphere for our customers such that they don’t have to worry about being overlooked”.
The company has been using the systems for over a year now, and has installed systems in 3 locations. Each location is equipped with 20 pagers, and one transmitter, which are installed at the host stand.
Upon greeting guests who arrive, the host/hostess records their name, the number of people in the group, the pager number assigned to them, and their arrival time. The guests are then encouraged to have a seat at the bar (if applicable), as they wait to be paged and to be seated. When their table is ready, the host enters the pager number assigned to the guest at arrival using the transmitter, and presses “enter”. The guest’s pager vibrates and flashes, letting them know to return to the host stand to be seated. The hostess then records the time the guests are seated. In the event that a manager is needed, the host can simply enter the assigned manager pager number, and the manager instantly receives a page and can address any issues.
As the paging system provides guests with the freedom to roam the area as they wait to be paged, making sure that all pagers are retrieved from customers is important. At times, locating pagers may be necessary. The transmitter is equipped with an Auto-Locator feature that sends out a signal to all pagers, causing them to vibrate and beep. According to Fisher, “At the end of the evening, we take an inventory of pagers, if any are missing, we use the pager locator function.”
The paging system allows guests to enjoy other services as they wait. While waiting for their table, Panini’s guests are handed a pager and are encouraged to go to the bar and have a beverage. According to Fisher, the restaurant has experienced an increase in sales at the bar from waiting guests.
Managing the even flow of people at the front door has been one of the benefits Panini’s has experienced from using the system. Congestion is minimized at the host stand, as guests are able to roam the premises once they are handed a pager.
According to Fisher, “the function that a hostess can locate a manager at anytime has been very useful.” The system allows the host/hostess to instantly page a manager when they are needed. This allows managers to handle issues immediately once notified, and helps improve customer service and customer satisfaction.
Unlike other methods such as overhead paging, or yelling out guest’s names that can sometimes be missed when notifying guests, the guest paging system “…creates a relaxed atmosphere for the customer”, comments Fisher. In addition to that, “they [guests] feel secure in the fact that they will not be overlooked when their name comes up on the list,” adds Fisher.
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