Fact: Members of OpenTable’s field team have worked just about every restaurant job that exists, from pastry chef to barista to busser. When we surveyed 200+ of them to learn more about their hands-on experience, we found than more than 76 percent had been servers at some point in their careers.
When it comes to turning tables and delighting diners, they get it. That’s why we’re thrilled to leverage their expertise to help restaurants address pain points in their own businesses. We turned to Chris Shaw, who manages some of our biggest national accounts, for tips on turning tables smoothly while also delivering great hospitality — here are five ideas to keep in mind.
Set up shifts to match pacing. In the OpenTable system you can adjust turn times within a shift so that each reservation accurate reflects dining patterns. You know the early diners will dine faster, thanks to a kitchen with plenty of bandwidth. At peak dinner hours, however, that pace will slow down significantly. Make sure your system reflects those patterns so you never have a table sitting empty.
Consider your service steps. Operational choices are different for every restaurant, and the appropriate steps of service depend completely on your style and concept. That said, it never hurts to review your steps and make sure they still apply. Are you greeting guests within 30 seconds of them sitting down? Do you need separate steps to ask if they want bread or water? And what about drinks and appetizers? Think about ways you can consolidate steps and move more efficiently, while never making guests feel rushed.
Gauge dessert timelines. Chris recommends using dessert to segue into a valet service that makes guests feel special. Ask if they want dessert, and if they decline, ask if you can have their car pulled up. He used to set up his system so that it printed out a chit to valet, listing the guest’s ticket number. When he let guests know their car was waiting, they felt that it was an extra service being provided. On the flip side, if they do order dessert you know you have another 30 to 40 minutes before they leave and you can plan accordingly.
Communicate with guests as they wait. The time between seatings at a table represents a huge opportunity for restaurants, says Chris. That’s often where they lose the most money while tables are sitting open. Use our Waitlist Texting feature to share guests’ estimated wait times and set expectations. Instead of waiting until a table is clean and set to contact the guest who is waiting, reach out to them as soon as the previous party stands up. Let them know their table should be ready shortly, and invite them back to the host stand to check in.
Embrace new payment solutions. Paying the check is one of the biggest pain points in service. Guests resent having to wait around for their bill, and servers are forced to rush around with credit cards. Emerging solutions like our mobile payments product give guests the convenience of paying from their phones, so your staff can focus on delivering great hospitality. In a survey of more than 6,000 OpenTable users, we learned that only 13 percent of people have tried mobile payments in a restaurant so far, with the vast majority finding it to be a positive or neutral experience. However, consumer appetite is significant: 46 percent said they have never tried it but like the idea. Any enhancement that can improve your guests’ experience is worth consideration.
Photo Credit: Erin Kunkel