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  • Writer's picturePhilip Marchant

10 tips to keep guests happy while they wait:

It is a busy Friday or Saturday night and your restaurant is full, every table taken with guests enjoying your food, drinks and service and more are walking through the door how do you not lose these to your competitors|:

10 tips to keep guests happy while they wait:

1. Invest in your staff:

In Europe and New York it is not uncommon for the best paid member of staff to be the Maitre’d. And why not? It is the most intellectually vigorous position in the restaurant when done correctly.

It is crucial to have a host beside the door who knows what they are doing. Invest in a well-paid, experienced lead host or reservations manager, who understands the importance of maximising reservations and walk-ins, and is incentivised to manage the floor in a profitable way for your business. In many of the most successful restaurants, the GM or restaurateur takes on this role themselves at weekends.

Make someone the floor manager, these will utilise the waiting staff in the best way will keep turnover tables quicker and liase with the host to maximise capacity.

Train your staff, so not only do they serve and give the customers a great experience but also maximise revenue from each table and clear and serve quickly and efficiently to increase turnaround time.

2. Streamline reservations

Accept reservations: Many small restaurants shy away from taking reservations because cancellations are costly. However, you may be turning away customers who want the guarantee of a table, especially on cold or rainy days. Also ensure that guests can make a reservation on your website and from their mobile!

Take a credit card number: take a credit card number for reservations and charge a cancellation fee for anyone who doesn’t show up.

3. Be honest with customers

Give them an accurate wait time: If the wait is going to be an hour, don’t tell them thirty minutes. They will be pleasantly surprised when the wait is shorter than they thought.

Recommend reservations: If you’re telling customers that the wait is over an hour, also tell them how easy it is to make online reservations for later in the night, or the next day. Or take a booking for later and make sure you can recommend something very local to do in the meantime.

Make sure they are really happy to wait: Some of the reason for long estimated wait times is because guests say they’ll wait but end up taking off when they get too hungry. Judge their reactions to the wait time and double-check to make sure they’ll wait for the table.

If they won’t wait: Don’t lose the opportunity to get them as a customer by offering them a voucher for a quieter week night (free Dessert or 20% off or similar) this will also help fill your restaurant on quieter nights. Even book them in for later that week with a free meal if they buy a start and dessert!?

4. Keep them occupied

Tell them what to do locally: Are you in an area with shops? Is there a cinema or cocktail bar close by? While offering their estimated wait time, give them some ideas for things to do in the immediate vicinity.

Take their phone number: If you’re sending guests away to keep them busy, take their phone number so that your hostess can call them personally when a table is read. This will also decrease the chance of no-shows.

Give them something to do: Depending on your theme, you might add TV’s to the waiting area, give out crayons and colouring books. Always have copies of your menu, so that they can start perusing.

It’s a Kinda Magic: Do any of your staff know magic tricks or have a “special skill” use these to entertain waiting guests, sit them at the bar and let the bar tender show off some cocktail flair.

Have a unique “instagram-able” item or items: (maybe some hats, accessories, backdrops, life size cut-outs etc) so they can not only have a little fun but encourage them to post on social media for some free marketing! You can even run a competition for a free meal for the picture with the most likes each month to encourage participation.

Freebies: Give them a jug of cocktails or drinks to keep them happy and maybe some chips and dips or nibbles to help pass the time.

5. Keep them calm and happy

Make room: If you’re known for long waits, then a proper waiting room, or at least outdoor heat lamps should be added to your budget for the following year. Squashing everyone into a tiny corridor won’t just make people uncomfortable, it’ll scare away others who might have been willing to wait.

Acknowledge them: Nothing is more frustrating than trying muscle your way through a line to find out how long the wait is. When guests arrive, usher them to the front, or train your host to greet them at the door.

When they do get a table, you must make their experience “worth the wait”. Make sure their order is correct their food is exceptional, the service is first class and they have an amazing time. All of your efforts to keep them happy while they wait, won’t help customer satisfaction if the meal and service doesn’t fit the bill!

If they enjoy their experience you can do something like:

“Hey, did you love the Steak? well you have to try the chicken” and give them a voucher for a quieter night for a free chicken.

Loyal regulars spend 67% more at restaurants than new guests do. With effective guest communication, empathy you can make every guest a loyal regular.

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