What do cars, planes, computers, restaurants and Disneyland lines all have in common? We want them to go faster. Over the past century, advances in modern technology have made most of them faster, but we always want more. In the dynamic, competitive restaurant market, it’s more important than ever for your team to focus on speed of service to drive sales and guest satisfaction. Here are some quick, easy ways to inject some nitrous into your restaurant’s service engine.
What Is Speed of Service (SOS)?
Speed of service is a measurement of the amount of time it takes for a restaurant to serve its customers. The ideal SOS and how it’s measured may vary across industries — for example, a drive-thru may track it from the time the customer places their order and when it’s delivered, while a full-service restaurant may begin measuring it from the moment customers are seated or when they’re greeted. Understanding your SOS can provide insights into ways to improve the customer experience, potential opportunities to increase table turnover, and how to adjust scheduling to boost revenue.
Front of House
1. Aces in Places
It’s no mystery that the right employee in the right role will do a job better and faster than one who isn’t. Always schedule your top performers on the busiest shifts. It’s also a good idea to plan cross-training and new employee training for lower volume times.
2. Immediate Greets
Make sure your service team knows your expectation of how much time they have to greet a guest. Is it 30 seconds? One minute? Immediately? This is crucial for full-service restaurants, because the guest’s clock starts from the moment they sit down, not when the server finally decides to show up.
3. Order Accuracy
Order accuracy is a major speed of service driver, so be sure servers are accurately taking the guest’s order, repeating it to the guest, and entering it into the POS accurately. One small mistake can add several minutes to the guest experience and sacrifice a revenue opportunity.
FHI-FHO stands for “full hands in, full hands out.” Servers who excessively “ping pong” back and forth from the counter or dining room to the kitchen are working inefficiently and are costing you money, so be sure their hands are full and they’re making best use of their trips. This behavior will never change if managers don’t correct it on the spot.
5. Check Reconciliation (Full-Service)
We’ve all been held hostage by a server — sitting at a table waiting for what feels like an eternity for them to process payment. To avoid this, watch for it on the floor and coach accordingly.
6. Menu Location (Quick-Service)
If guests don’t see a menu until they get to the counter, you’re losing money. Be sure to have digital or paper menus available at the back of the line, too.
Back of House
1. Supply, Equipment and Prep Schematics
Every second counts in foodservice. Kitchen designers make a living on designing kitchens to be as efficient as possible. Take full advantage of their work by organizing your supplies and equipment to do the same. Your staff will most likely have great ideas to make their stations more efficient. Just ask them! Similarly, prep schematics, or the way ingredients are organized on the line, have a big impact on a cook’s ability to prepare food quickly. Generally, keep all ingredients needed for a single menu item grouped together on the line in the same schematic every day. You’ve done it right when a cook can prepare any item on your menu blindfolded.
2. Ticket Time Standards
It’s a great practice to have ticket time standards posted in your kitchen (i.e. appetizers: 3 minutes, entrees: 7 minutes, etc.) and in your training materials. Set your expectations and hold the kitchen accountable to producing within the established timeframes.
Cross-training is a great way to make sure your kitchen is firing on all cylinders and prevent a station from getting in the weeds. The more cross-trained employees you have, the more flexibility you have to strategically move people around the kitchen and help where needed. The key is to make preemptive moves BEFORE the station goes down, not after.
A Kitchen Display System, or KDS, can help lower production times and provide great backend fulfillment reporting. A KDS also has functionality to reduce common human errors like misplacing tickets and incorrectly adding order quantities.