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Restaurant Wait Times: How Long is Too Long?

By Jay O'Sullivan

There are so many points during the dining experience when your guests can run into too long of a restaurant wait time. Most restaurants work hard to ensure their guests are happy, even when there is a long wait, but how long is too long to wait for a table, for your food, for your check?

While popular restaurants get used to operating with a steady wait time, it is important to determine whether your guests are experiencing a wait because your restaurant is in high demand or is just poorly run.

It could very well be that the wait times at your restaurant are due to your establishment being in high demand – delicious dishes, trendy atmosphere, great service. But perhaps the wait at your restaurant is rooted in something else, perhaps it is totally fixable and preventable.

The Table Wait

The most important waiting period you must properly manage is the table wait time. Since your guest is not yet seated, and they have not yet opened a tab with your establishment or placed any orders, this is the wait time that can and will result in a walkout if it goes on too long or is improperly handled.

Most restaurant wait times can be cut down and streamlined with the use of a wait time app.

One of the biggest customer frustrations in a restaurant is poor estimates on table wait times. If your hostess/host is too optimistic or merely bad at estimating wait times, your guests are given inaccurate wait times often resulting in upsets.

Guests can begin to pile up fast, and they get angry when their estimated fifteen-minute wait turns into over thirty minutes. This is when walkouts occur; we’ve all seen it happen and many of us have done it ourselves – you spend 30 minutes waiting for a table you were told would be ready in ten minutes, your kids are restless, and you are starving, so you just leave in search of something faster and easier.

Implementing a digital floorplan can solve most restaurant wait time problems. Restaurant reservation apps such as Seatninja come with many tools and helpful functions for a restaurateur but the reservation management functions are the most important. Even if you don’t use 90% of the tools offered with your reservation app, simply using the digital floorplan to organize your table waits can change your life.

Utilizing a digital floorplan to manage your reservations, waitlists and seating takes the errors out of this process, maximizes your table space, and properly spaces out your guest’s reservations.

Most Food is Best Served Hot

Another wait time that can cause frustration for your guests if improperly managed is the amount time for the food to hit the table. While a large portion of properly timed food rests in the hands of your servers, there are measures you can take to ensure the food in your restaurant is served hot.

There’s no better way to ensure each reservation is a success than by starting with a promptly sat table.

Most restaurant reservation apps come with many other tools in addition to merely reservation booking. For example, Seatninja utilizes Smart-assign which will suggest tables and will never over book you. Seatninja can also customize reservation limits by day of the week, holidays and events, again ensuring your tables and servers are not overbooked. Nothing slows a server down more than an overbooked section, and an overbooked section results in slow orders, late food and unhappy guests.

In addition to preventing overbooking via your reservation management, Seatninja provides you with tools for server and kitchen management as well. With Seatninja’s digital floor plans you can assign sections faster than paper by using preset layouts, track your server’s load throughout their shift, and maintain the perfect server rotation for the amount of reservations booked. Tools such as these give you tools to ensure your servers and kitchen staff are being properly utilized and not overbooked, resulting in properly timed food, served fresh the way your guests expect.

Finishing Touches and The Check Drop

A good dining experience doesn’t end when the meal is finished. In fact, a well timed dessert and check drop can be just as memorable as a swift seating experience and properly timed entrees. It is important to make sure your wait staff don’t let the ball drop just because the meals have been served and eaten, because when diners are ready to go that means they are READY TO GO.

With a full service restaurant reservation app such as Seatninja, monitoring and managing a table all the way to completion can be done with a few clicks of a button. Seatninja’s digital floor plan allows you to track your next customer how long they’ve waited, track how long each table has been seated and where they are at in their dining experience, and allows for easy two-way texting – keeping restaurant managers, servers and hosts in easy communication and keeping tables turning when they should.

Your guests’ first experience with you is making a reservation, so getting them through the door is the most important part of showing them a great dining experience. Quit leaving this in the hands of new hosts, old landlines, and large paper log books.