Speed up your service to earn customer loyalty and increased profits in your restaurant

Published September 24, 2020

You glance at your phone, checking the time as you stand in a long queue to order something quick and nutritious to eat. Or maybe you’re at a nice dine-in restaurant for a quick lunch. You’ve finished your meal and you need to pay your check so you can get back to work.

Waiting—we’ve all been there.

As a restaurant owner, manager or employee, you know that getting your customer what they need in a timely, accurate way is essential to providing quality service and a positive dining experience.

According to a report by social review tracker Feed It Back featured in Imbibe, 20 percent of negative feedback for restaurants is due to slow service. It should come as no surprise to anyone in the restaurant industry that the report demonstrates long wait times and rude service are the biggest contributors to negative reviews.  

As restaurants continue to adjust to changes in the industry, it’s a great time to take a look at how quickly you’re turning tables. Faster service without compromising quality in your restaurants typically means higher customer satisfaction and increased revenue.

Plus, speedy service will keep customers moving and crowds at a minimum, which is important for restaurants to operate safely during COVID-19.

This guide features several tips to create faster service in your restaurant, whether you run a sit-down establishment or a fast-casual restaurant brand. Using technology to make ordering easier for customers is one of the many ways to speed up service. This and other tips will provide an improved dining experience for customers and potentially raise your bottom line.

The problems: What contributes to slow service in your restaurant?

Before we get into tips on speeding up your restaurant service, let’s dive into some of the factors that could be slowing you down. Remember—slow service is bad service, and bad service can doom your restaurant. As celebrated home chef and TV host Alton Brown once proclaimed, “Good service can save a bad meal, but there is no level of food that can save bad service.”

Perhaps the biggest factor in speed of service can be attributed to your staff. Properly trained staff serve customers quickly, accurately and consistently. Untrained or unengaged employees can throw a wrench into the efficiency of your restaurant. Poorly trained employees devalue your customers and harm your brand.

Carolyn Muise, VP, Global Customer Success at NCR, explains that the best way to level up customer service in your restaurant is to engage your employees.

“Companies that effectively engage and enable their employees see up to 4.5 times more revenue growth than companies whose employees are less engaged,” she writes. Muise explains that companies should take five key actions to bridge employee engagement and customer experience.

Restaurant owners and managers can consider additional factors that contribute to slow service, including poor restaurant layout, inefficient or outdated POS systems, bad forecasting and even confusing menus.

 

“Good service can save a bad meal, but there is no level of food that can save bad service.” - Alton Brown

Tips for improving speed of service in a restaurant while maintaining quality

Guests have reasonable expectations when they choose a restaurant—they want quality food, quick, friendly service and a good customer experience. As you know, it’s not always so cut and dry from the perspective of a restaurant owner, restaurant manager or employee. For the customer, it’s one meal, one experience at any given time. But your restaurant, on the other hand, is filling many, many orders every day in various ways. You have to get this right for hundreds of people; speeding up your service can go a long way to achieving that.

So how can you make sure you’re maintaining a quick speed of service without sacrificing quality?

Consider the following tips to increase your speed-of-service:

1. Implement the best restaurant layout

Make sure dining tables and chairs don’t impede lines or walkways. Declutter and clearly mark customer spaces like waiting and areas. Do “practice runs” in your restaurant space to mimic busy service times to make sure there are no bottlenecks in your table space.

2. Update your restaurant’s technology

Investing in the latest restaurant technology like contactless payments, digital signage and digital order and pay at the table will help your restaurant stay relevant and customer focused in this changing world. And don’t forget to train your employees on these new systems.

3. Improve your inventory forecasting

Having a well-stocked inventory, an up-to-date employee work schedule and properly forecasting for holidays and other special events will keep your restaurant running quickly and smoothly.

4. Say goodbye to confusing menus

Too many options or bad menu layouts can frustrate customers and lead to slow ordering times. Streamline your menu to help optimize your speed of service.

Use technology to help improve speed of service in your restaurant

The National Restaurant Association says that 32% of operators think their business is lagging in restaurant technologies. What technologies are you missing out on in your restaurant?

If improving speed of service is your goal, it’s a good idea to invest in the latest digital restaurant ordering and pay technologies. The most modern systems offer:

  • Contactless dine-in and payments to drive consumer safety and grow your business during the pandemic
  • Real-time reports and analytics via mobile app to dynamically manage your business
  • Easy-to-use and instant configuration for managing changes in menu, items, price, etc.
  • Kitchen production technology to satisfy the increasing demand from digital orders

These features are essential to optimizing your restaurant for fast speed of service while maintaining accuracy and quality.

Customer demand for quick access to quality food has driven the need for restaurants to implement online and mobile ordering. Adding these technologies provides convenience for your customers and improves your speed of service, meaning you have the ability to sell more.

With online and mobile ordering:

  • Guests can act as their own cashier allowing future orders build up ahead of the customer arrival.
  • The pace for your customer slows down—they can take their time to explore your menu, look at special offers and access upsells, all without standing in a queue.
  • Customer orders are more accurate—they can input exactly what they want from your menu, creating a more satisfying customer experience and less opportunity for mistakes.

Do customers really care about all of this technology? Absolutely. According to Jessica Bryant, senior director of marketing at NCR, experience is everything for consumers now and technology plays a significant part in delivering the ultimate experience from browsing a menu online to gaining loyalty rewards.

These solutions enable a customer to order the way they want—anytime, anywhere. Restaurant technology frees up staff to be more focused on delivering orders, clearing tables and engaging with diners, putting your speed of service in the right place to earn customer loyalty.

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