According to Wikipedia, velocity is equivalent to a specification of an object’s speed and direction of motion. Velocity as it relates to your restaurant’s operations isn’t so much about physics, but a culture that you create as the leader. When a guest is left waiting at the host stand, or a server forgets to greet a table, we usually think about how that impacts the guest experience first (as we should), but have you ever considered how those service missteps impact your financials? Let’s take a moment to explore a few ways that velocity affects your top-line.
There are typically more guest “choke points” in a full-service restaurant (FSR) compared to a limited-service restaurant (LSR) due to the greater complexity of FSR guest-flow, and consequently, more ways to congest your revenue intake.
- Problem: Hosts put guests on a “false wait” with open tables in the dining room
- Impact: Guests opt to dine elsewhere, or your tables aren’t turned as quickly, leading to longer wait times, lost sales and dissatisfied guests
- Solution: Train your hosts to never go on a false wait unless approved by a manager. Depending on your restaurant’s size and volume, you may need a greeter and a seater. The greeter’s job is to stay at the host stand to greet incoming guests and manage the wait list, and the seater’s job is to get “butts in seats” while scouting for open and/or dirty tables and communicating with the busser. On the same note, make sure hosts are quoting realistic wait times. Under-promise and over-deliver (quote higher wait times and seat faster than quoted) is very common and actually not a great practice—the high wait times scare guests and increase the likelihood of a walk-out.
- Problem: Lack of training leaves key people unaware of expectations
- Impact: Hosts have no idea they’re not supposed to go on false waits, bussers don’t know how quickly they’re expected to flip dirty tables (i.e. 90 seconds), servers don’t know how fast they need to greet the table (i.e. 60 seconds or less). All of this negatively impacts your velocity and slows the entire operation down, especially during the rush when it counts the most.
- Solution: Service timing expectations should be documented in your service training and enforced by the management team. Otherwise, your staff is left to their own interpretation of speed-of-service and your velocity is cut off at the heels. Expectations should be ingrained in the culture of your restaurant and discussed during pre-shifts and staff meetings.
- Problem: Key roles don’t effectively communicate to each other
- Impact: Hosts don’t know where to seat next, which backs up the front door, the kitchen doesn’t know there are 20 open menus in the dining room which impacts ticket times, the busser doesn’t know the next tables to clear which . . . you get the idea.
- Solution: Consider implementing walkie talkies with headsets for hosts, bussers and managers. This is an affordable and effective way to allow your staff to communicate the right way without leaving their stations. Now key roles can respond to the information being delivered real-time, and your dining room can operate at max efficiency and hit full revenue potential.
- Problem: Fragmented or non-existent tech
- Impact: Guests have difficulty with or are completely unable to order online, impacting speed-of-service, visit frequency and intent to return. According to a recent survey conducted by QSR Magazine, 39 percent of QSR customers in the U.S. ordered food from an app in the past 90 days, and 60 percent said they would visit a limited-service restaurant more if kiosks were available. It’s clear, restaurants that are willing to adapt to their guests’ evolving needs will improve not only velocity, but the guest experience, intent to return, visit frequency and the P&L benefits that come with all the above.
- Problem: Menus aren’t readily available in line, so guests take too long to order at the counter
- Impact: Slow-moving line, long wait and unhappy guests. Incoming guests see the long line and walk out. Guests are quicker to decline add-ons and upsells in a slow-moving line.
- Solution: Improved menu visibility towards the start of the line will help guests make their decisions while they wait, instead of bogging down the service line. Consider adding paper or digital menus at the start of the line. If possible, explore kiosks/self-service options.