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Making table turnover work for you and your guests

For many restaurants, the rate at which tables can be turned has a major impact on the popularity and profitability of the business.

Go too slow and you could be facing empty tables, queues of people waiting to be seated and diners that are already seated left in a kind of pre-order limbo.

Go too fast and your guests’ experience will be rushed, leaving your restaurant branded as pushy and impersonal.

When you look at these pitfalls, it’s clear that optimising table turnover to achieve the highest revenue potential for your restaurant while also keeping diners happy can be a bit like standing in the middle of a see-saw, swaying one way, then the next!

Like every tricky situation, though, there’s always something that can be done to make things easier. In this case, by following just a few simple tips, we think there’s a level position to be gained.

Design and layout

A considerable amount of research has been undertaken into the psychology of restaurant design, with various elements shown to influence how clients feel about an establishment, how comfortable they are and how long they’ll spend there. Décor, lighting, ambience and layout all play their part.

One fairly obvious point is that people tend to spend longer in restaurants if they’re seated in booths as opposed to tables. While you might not want to get rid of the booth environment entirely, think carefully about who is seated there, being sure to fill the seating space with larger groups of diners while placing couples or smaller groups at tables.

Other tips that have been shown to increase table turnover include:
• Using touches of bold, warm colours within your interior design (e.g. reds and golds).
• Playing fast-paced background music (but at a comfortable noise level that allows your clientele to still enjoy their conversation).
• Offering guests a complimentary post-dinner drink in exchange for relocating to a lounge, bar or outdoor patio area.

Training your servers

While it’s commonplace for smaller restaurants to train new recruits via a system of on-the-job shadowing with more experienced staff, the problem with this is that the new staff are not always aware of what you (the owner) expects of them.

You may know that your restaurant has to optimise table turnover as a priority but do your servers know this? Moreover, do they know the key role they have to play in this important mission?

Set aside some dedicated time to explain how table turnover influences the success and revenue of the business, then communicate the best practice standards you want your servers to observe. Every restaurant will be different but you could state that you want all new tables to be greeted within 60 seconds; you might train them to recommend options that take less time to prepare during peak periods; or you could take an hour to refresh their knowledge of your POS features so that communication between servers, kitchen staff, baristas and front-of-house is as streamlined as possible (see more below).

Using your Point of Sale system

In a busy restaurant environment, a smart iPad-based POS system is one of the best management tools that can help you accomplish your table turnover goals.

As previously mentioned, it’s a great way of improving communication. Servers can use mobile devices at the table to quickly answer any questions about the menu, take orders and send them directly to the kitchen and bar. This helps to eliminate human error, speed up the seating to ordering process and consequently expedite food preparation and delivery,

On top of this, the accurate reports produced by a modern POS can play their part in increasing table turnover. Knowing your restaurant’s best-selling menu items ensures your purchasing schedule matches demand (avoiding situations where customers delay making their selections because the favourites are off menu); and understanding your restaurant’s peak hours enables you to forecast your staffing needs so that the restaurant floor always functions efficiently.

If you’re using a Good Till, there’s also the option of implementing our powerful Hospitality Module. This includes Table/ Tab management features that give you a clear view of table layout and their status at all times, plus Split Bill functionality that ensures less hassle or hold ups when it comes to group payments.

Have your cake and eat it!

Let’s think again about the dilemma you face as a restaurateur: you want guests to feel comfortable and view their time at your restaurant as wholly positive, but you don’t want them to be so comfortable and relaxed that they fail to leave long after they’ve finished eating!

The point about following each of the tips we’ve included here is that none will come at the cost of your diners’ experience. It’s a classic ‘have your cake and eat it’ moment.

You can adapt your décor and ambience (but don’t have to go so garish or loud as to put people off); you can train your servers to accomplish a quick ordering process (but they don’t have to be pushy); and you can maximise efficiency with your POS while giving customers the lasting impression that your restaurant runs smoothly and can be trusted to deliver on both its culinary and customer service promises.

Take a look at some of the other features that the Good Till’s restaurant level POS can offer your business here.

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