As restaurant owners and managers, we often assume that having a full restaurant or a line up at your door will automatically maximize your restaurant sales.  Well, not necessarily.  We tend to think of this as the one thing that doesn’t need fixing, and we focus our “what to fix” energy on almost anything else.  Unfortunately, most restaurants are losing business from right out of those full restaurants and line ups of willing guests, and don’t realize it.

Do you maximize your restaurant sales opportunities?

A lined-up restaurant is great, but line-ups don’t help your restaurant’s bottom line until all of those restaurant guests are seated and ordering food & drinks.  If you can’t process the lineup quickly enough, some of those guests will leave.  And the longer guests wait before they’re seated can directly impact how much money they spend, based on how much time they have, and because it can negatively affect their frame of mind.

Great opportunities to maximize your restaurant sales

There are some great opportunities to maximize your sales during peak periods.  Consider the following.

How long do tables sit empty?

  1.  Every restaurant table sitting empty while there’s a line up at the door is costing you money. Think about it.  If 5 tables sit empty for 10 minutes each, while you have guests waiting to be seated, that adds up to approximately 1 whole table of guests that you didn’t add to your sales during that hour.

Are guests in your lineup watching those open tables?

  1. Many restaurant guests who are waiting will notice and be frustrated when they see empty tables not getting cleaned, reset and seated.  Guests will pre-judge your restaurant’s service based on what they observe while they’re waiting in line, in addition to their experience from any previous visit.  Unfortunately, all it takes is one slow or bad experience in your restaurant to possibly lose further opportunities, particularly with lunch guests, since their allotted time for lunch is always going to be limited.  If they run out of time to eat and are late getting back to work just once, they likely won’t chance it again at your restaurant.  On the other hand, if the line moves quickly, they’ll remember that, too.  That’s a win for them, and they’ll be back.

Does the guest’s waiting period continue at the table?

       3. After waiting in line,

  • how long are guests waiting at the table to be greeted?
  • How long will they wait now for their server, for drinks, and to order and be served their meals?
  • How long will they wait for the guest check at the end of the meal?
  • How is the teamwork in your restaurant and how proficient are your serving teams?  Are they racing simply to keep up, or are they masters of keeping the atmosphere at the table calm while capitalizing on sales opportunities, even in the busiest rush periods and while still respecting guests’ time constraints?

How quickly does each lost minute add up to one less table turn?

  1. What does it take to get the next table of guests seated? Is there a table that’s free? Has it been reset? Are your servers clearing items no longer needed at the table, making the most of every trip they make, or is the table a mess at the end of each meal? If your servers are not clearing throughout the guest’s visit, you’re risking both the time it takes to turn that table as well as risking the guest’s comfort level. Be sure your servers are not above clearing everything no longer needed at the table, every trip, to ensure that the table can be re-set and re-sat as quickly as possible.

Most importantly, how long is the average restaurant guest’s visit during any meal time or peak period, and how quickly does each lost minute in inefficiency add up to one less table turn?

Where us your leadership focused?

  1. Where is the leadership? Where is the manager during these busy times?  Are they helping the food get out of the kitchen by cooking or expediting the line?  Are they working with the hosting staff to manage the lineup and seating?  Are they helping a particular server that is overwhelmed or “in the weeds”?  In some restaurants, it’s protocol for managers during rush periods to personally approach every table in the restaurant to introduce themselves and ask how everything is.  Where is the most effective place for a restaurant manager to be investing their time during rush periods in your restaurant?


What does the effort to maximize your sales mean to your bottom line?

If increased efficiency in peak periods gave you an additional 1% in sales, how much would that represent in sales or profit?  What if it gave you an additional 2%?  What if it was 5%?  How much in additional sales or profit would it represent then?

In the next series of blogs, I’ll address these common road blocks to making your busiest periods exceptional, and how the right training and conditioning can help you make your busiest periods even more profitable.