It has been said that restaurants and other customer-service businesses rise and fall on their performance during peak hours – the few hours a day when customers are lined up and waiting.
How many times can you turn the tables? Is every seat filled all the time?And, do customers go away happy or disappointed by the experience?
Often-quoted restaurant management consultant, Brandon O’Dell, estimates that 80 percent of revenue – and 100 percent of profit – is earned during those busy times. In simple terms, the business operates at a loss during slow hours because of fixed costs. But peak hours are the time when it’s easiest to make revenue exceed fixed costs, crossing over the “breakeven” point. Every dollar over that point is close to pure profit.
The figures certainly vary depending on business type, location and many other factors, but this much can’t be denied: An awful lot is riding on a business’ ability to wring the greatest possible revenue out of “the rush.”
Front-Door Management is Key to Maximizing the Rush
That’s one reason front-door management – the process of managing the guests stacked up at the front during peak times and helping them get seated quickly – is so important. It’s an area where many businesses have failed, not only to achieve the efficiency and insights needed to improve revenues day-to-day, but also to enrich customer experiences in ways that promote loyalty and long-term revenue.
Even today, many full-service restaurants engage in one of the archaic, manual forms of guest management, either the pen-and-clipboard method or the table schematic- and-grease-pencil method. Manual waitlists offer no simple way of matching party sizes or other preferences with available seating in order to maximize all seats. Guests have no idea where they stand in queue. And, your host’s mode of communicating with them is, basically, to yell. It’s messy, loud and chaotic. Both table turnover and guest experience suffer.
Still other businesses have adopted one of the many technology solutions on the market that offer somewhat better results, but may still be lacking in utility or completeness. Either they lock you in on how you’ll be alerting guests – by buzzer pager or SMS text, but not both – or they include waitlist applications that are unnecessarily complicated, actually making life harder for the host instead of easier.
Another ability lacking for many businesses is a way to analyze patterns of customer preference – say, the size of parties, seating preferences, average wait times and other data – that could help you improve the customer experience.
What’s needed is a solution that does all of the above – and more. In the following pages, we’ll talk about ways that customer-oriented businesses can leverage technology to improve front-door management.
Customer Comes First
The maxim that customers come first is one of the oldest in business, and most owners and managers would buy it as a solid rule of thumb for success. However, when it comes to front door management, customer-centric is not always the first phrase that comes to mind. “Cattle call” might be more like it.
Think about how a jam-packed, noisy waiting area feels to customers when the business has a clipboard-style manual waitlist. Not only are guests tethered to the host stand area for fear of missing their opportunity for a table, but they also have no idea how long they’ll be there – could be 15 minutes, could be 45.
They feel helpless, uncomfortable and uninformed – a dynamic not exactly conducive to developing warm-and-fuzzy feelings for any place of business.
Many businesses that have moved on from manual processes have adopted solutions that might free customers from the host stand but also eliminates their freedom of choice about how to be notified. It’s either “Here, take a pager,” or “Give me your phone number and we’ll text you.”
Well, what if you’d rather carry one device (your phone) instead of two (a phone and buzzer)? Or, what if the customer doesn’t want to be required to pay close attention to their phone while waiting, or is reluctant to give you his cell number? (About 7 percent of customers will refuse to give their number out of fear of marketing overload.) Shouldn’t you offer a choice?
Today’s Technology Frees Guests from the Host Stand Blues
Today’s waitlist technology frees guests from the old waiting-around-the-host-stand doldrums and allows them to choose notification via classic restaurant pager or by SMS text to their phones. The host or hostess can easily enter guests’ details into a waitlist app, such as party size, smoking preference, and even accurately quote wait times.
With the added certainty that they’re on the list and will be notified with the method of their choice, guests are then free to wait in the bar, peruse nearby shops or even run a quick errand instead of staring at the host stand. All the while, they know they haven’t lost their spot in line, and they have a good estimate on their wait time.
When a table is available, communicating with guests takes just a few keystrokes (or a swipe on an tablet device). The host is never out of contact with patrons, and can send either a page or SMS text from the same app.
Guests who choose to remain in the waiting area will experience less ……..
Find Out More About Front Door Management Strategies
Complete the form below to download . This free eBook covers strategies for best managing the wait during peak hours.