How to Avoid Making Customers Wait in Your Restaurant

Cosy department store restaurant

I don’t know about you, but one thing that annoys me when eating out is having to wait an unreasonable amount of time for my meal.

This is exactly what happened recently when I decided to pop into a restaurant that’s located in a well-known department store.

The thing I liked most about the place was that it was a buffet style restaurant that provided fast service. At least it used to be. That had all changed on this occasion, as it was now waiter service.

I got seated quickly, the server was nice and friendly and took my order with a smile. My drink came right away, and I sat back and relaxed. So far so good. I was rather hungry and anticipated that my food would arrive shortly.

Thirty minutes later and I was still waiting. My relaxed mood had gone, and I had started to feel a bit stressed. The fact that the next table’s order had already come, and they were almost finishing their meal didn’t help.

I caught the server’s eye and politely asked when my food was expected. She said she would check and disappeared into the kitchen. A bit later she came back and said it would be a few minutes longer.

My meal finally arrived and I’m glad to say it was delicious. But the forty-five-minute wait had left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.

So, what had gone wrong? Why the delay? No-one could offer any explanation and I must say I felt disappointed.

To make matters worse, when I asked for the bill and said I would pay by bank card, the server said I would have to pay at the exit. I got up, went to the exit and yes, you’ve guessed it, there was a queue of people waiting to pay!

Overall, I’d spent longer waiting around in the restaurant than enjoying my meal. The changes the restaurant management had made had resulted in a poor customer experience.

How can restaurants avoid making changes that customers don’t like, like making them wait longer for their meal? Here are a few ideas.

1. Inform customers in advance about changes

If a restaurant is planning to make any changes to their service, they should inform their customers in advance. This could be through social media, email newsletters or by putting up notices in the restaurant itself. By giving customers a heads up, they can prepare themselves for any potential delays or disruptions.

2. Keep the menu simple

One of the reasons for long waiting times is a complicated menu. If a restaurant has a large and complex menu, it can be difficult for the kitchen to keep up with the orders. By simplifying their menu, restaurants can streamline their cooking process and reduce wait times for customers.

3. Value back-of-house staff

A lot of delays in restaurants are due to kitchen staff shortages. Finding and keeping good back-of-house staff is more challenging than ever today. Make sure you are compensating your chefs and kitchen staff well and creating a pleasant work environment. Even if you are not actively recruiting, keep a pipeline of potential candidates who you can call up when the inevitable chef shortage occurs.

4. Offer small bites or drinks while customers wait

While waiting for their meals, customers can get impatient and hungry. By offering complimentary small bites or drinks, restaurants can keep their customers satisfied and distracted from the wait. This can also give the kitchen some extra time to prepare orders without customers feeling frustrated.

5. Communicate with customers

If there are any delays or issues in the kitchen, it’s important for restaurants to communicate this with their customers. Honesty is the best policy here. Apologize and give the reason for the delay: “We are short-staffed today” or “we missed your order, but we are right on it now” This shows that the restaurant values its customers by being honest with them.

6. Give a discount

If a restaurant really has screwed up and the meal has taken an unreasonable amount of time to serve, a discount is in order. If you are in the restaurant business for the long haul, keeping customer goodwill is crucial if you want to create loyal customers that keep coming back.

Even though the long wait was enough to dampen my mood, I will be going back to this particular restaurant. Why? Because the food was great and despite the delay, the waitstaff were very friendly. Once again, super nice service staff saved the day!

Read more about how you can deal with complaints and improve the customer service in your restaurant in this article or take a look at our Customer Complaints Guide for Waitstaff.

About the Author

Ian Miller, CSMIan Miller is Editor of Customer Service Manager Magazine – the leading resource and community for customer service professionals.

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