Reduce Lines and Wait Times in Your Restaurant
Data shows that if a customer at a quick service restaurant has a wait time of three minutes or less they’re highly satisfied. That number isn’t so surprising — from a customer prospective, waiting in line is the least enjoyable part of the quick service restaurant experience.
If your line is too long many would-be patrons may skip your restaurant altogether, opting for a shorter line elsewhere. Keep reading to learn more about what may be causing your long lines, and how you can fix them.
1. Having multiple lines at your quick service restaurant can cause delays
While some quick service restaurants have multiple lines, research has shown that customers prefer a “one line for all registers” solution to waiting in line. Diners can become agitated if they feel like another patron who arrived later is being helped before them. This perception of unfairness can cause customers to take their business elsewhere. To solve this, have a single line that feeds into multiple registers where customers can order.
In many cases a single line can be incredibly efficient. Wendy’s is one quick service restaurant that employs this concept well, though there’s no one-size-fits-all method that will work for every establishment.
2. Multi-tasking employees can increase wait times
It may sound counterintuitive, but if one employee is responsible for multiple tasks, line wait times can increase. Could your employees be multitasking too heavily, and could it lead to longer wait times for customers?
Home Slice, an extraordinarily popular Austin, Texas pizza restaurant, helps manage its extremely long lines by increasing staff numbers behind the line. As Nano Whitman, the restaurant’s general manager said, “You never want the person talking to the customer to have to break away and do extra things that are going to slow the line down. You want them to be focused on the customer having a good time while somebody else is doing the work to get the food out.”
3. Not having enough front of house staff can lead to long restaurant lines
In an effort to remain profitable it can be tempting to reduce the amount of staff that you have on hand. However, reducing front of house staff can have a negative impact on your overall sales. John Scardapane, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based Saladworks, frames the issue by stating, “One customer that’s unhappy and doesn’t come back costs you a lot more than the hourly rates you’re trying to save by cutting back one employee.”
Scardapane has an excellent suggestion for an alternative, and more effective, way to cut costs: renegotiate your vendor contracts. Everything from rent to food is negotiable, and it doesn’t hurt to ask.
4. Do you have a menu visible for people waiting in line?
If your customers have to wait in a line you might as well make their time more productive. Are diners able to easily look at a menu while standing in line, so that they can make their food choices before they reach the register? If they aren’t it could lead to longer lines and increased wait times.
Make it easy for patrons to look at a menu while waiting and you might notice that your lines move faster. You can also use menu boards with prominent photos of the food. It’s an upselling technique that drive-thrus have used with great success, because our eyes are drawn to visuals. Using photos can also help speed up decision-making.
5. Being reluctant to use new technology can lead to longer lines in a quick service restaurant
Technology, such as people counting and line-time video analytics, can make your quick service restaurant more efficient than ever if you’re willing to include it in your daily operations. Digital ordering is one way that restaurants are striving for “wait time zero,” and it could be a tool worth investigating. If customers are able to pre-order their food the lines will be shorter and wait times will be drastically reduced or nonexistent. Staff members are also able to plan their workload more efficiently.
Another helpful way to utilize technology and reduce wait times is having a staff member with a POS tablet take the orders of patrons who are waiting in line. As an added bonus, customers won’t feel like they’re wasting precious time in a slow-moving line.