Four ways to increase your restaurant's table turnover ratio, maximize efficiency, boost profit and keep your customers satisfied.
One day, a party of three walked into Carl’s restaurant and asked for a table. Carl immediately seated the group, even though the table was large enough for a party of six. Five minutes later a group of six walked in, asking for a table. Although some parties were leaving, these were all groups of two or four, meaning that the group of six would have to endure a long wait until a large enough table would become available. If that wasn’t bad enough, Carl, an avid supporter of taking reservations at busy times, was frustrated by a party of five that had yet to show for their reservation. Carl wanted to use that table for other guests, but worried that the party might show and be angry that their table was given away. Despite Carl’s attempt to satisfy customers, his table turnover ratio is low, slow and his restaurant does not utilize its resources or time properly, causing a loss in revenue and increased customer dissatisfaction. We all know a Carl. Don’t be like Carl. Instead, take a minute or two to understand Carl’s mistakes.
Reservations about Reservations
Increasing turnover ratio can start from the reservation-making process. Unlike Carl, don’t make reservations during your busiest times. This will mitigate the risk of reserving tables for no-shows, which slows down the seating process. If you want to make reservations during popular hours, limit the quantity or only use one seating area for reservations, depending on the size of your facility. This minimizes the risk of empty tables for no-shows or last-minute cancellations without completely taking away your reservation cushion.
No Seat, No Eat
The way you seat customers can speed-up your table turnover ratio. Using seating software will maximize efficiency and hosts will have an easier time locating the necessary size tables for given parties. Learn from Carl’s mistake: do not seat small parties at tables meant for larger groups. In addition, do not seat parties until all members are present, guests will linger at the table until everyone arrives.
Once a party is seated, waitstaff should immediately introduce themselves and distribute menus to expedite the ordering process. Another trick is to encourage ordering appetizers and main courses at the same time, which ensures a steady pace throughout the meal and leads to more turnover. In finer-dining establishments in particular, waitstaff should regularly refill water and wine glasses, soft drinks and cocktails as an easy way to increase revenue per party, despite lower turnover ratio.
The Sounds of Sales
Music effects table turnover, too. Playing up-beat, fast-paced music is scientifically proven to increase the table turnover ratio, while slower-tempo music increases alcohol and dessert sales by 40%. Likewise, the layout of your restaurant impacts table turnover. Studies show that patrons seated at tables in the middle of the restaurant tend to dine quicker than those in corners. Therefore, restaurants seeking to maximize turnover should put tables in the center of their venues, whereas fine-dining restaurants should place more in corners and around the perimeter of the restaurant, incentivising customers to linger and order more in one sitting.