Effective Ways to Maximize Table Turnover in Your Restaurant

Don’t be afraid to test. Try something you have never tried before.

Whenever we are talking about maximizing table turnover, I need to start the conversation with a disclaimer.  Sometimes, speeding up the amount of time your guests occupy a seat is not your best option.

For example: if your restaurant isn’t on a wait, then you will likely want to keep your guests happy and try to offer them another drink or dessert. You also have to be careful and consider the long term effect of rushing customers out, whether directly or indirectly.

But as any restaurant employee will say, when you need to turn a table, you need to turn a table over.

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Establish Your Guests’ Timeline Before They Sit Down

I always want to ask my guests a very simple question before they sit down, or if your restaurant is a bit more casual, this can happen immediately upon seating them.

The question is simple “What brings you folks in today?

Suggest Items That the Kitchen Can Prepare Quickly

To move guests out more naturally, keep in mind that guests will often order suggestions when they are properly described.  Make sure servers suggest one or two items that the kitchen can prepare quickly and that diners always love. If a guest is torn between an entree-sized Greek salad or a well-done steak, the suggestion should be clear.

Limit the Amount of Steps

One of the biggest slow downs to service is taking two trips to do what could have been done in one.

For example, don’t come to the table and introduce yourself empty handed. Bring your bread basket and water pitcher so you can kill three birds with one trip. This signals to your patrons that the next time the server approaches them it should be time to order.

Way to shave 5-10 minutes off the service time!

Have Certain Items Prepared in Advance

Prepare water or iced tea pitchers in advance. You can even go so far as to have certain menu items partially prepared in advance as long as it does not effect quality.

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Utilize Efficient Restaurant Technology

Nothing is more frustrating to a restaurant manager than seeing a line of servers in front of the terminal waiting to close out a check. This stalls up the time it takes to turn tables and keeps everyone waiting longer than they should be.

Some restaurant POS systems can actually increase table turn time exponentially faster than legacy systems.

You can also maximize table turnover with these design elements.

Music

Louder music with a faster, upbeat rhythm will encourage guests to eat faster.

Colors

Brighter restaurant colors that are closer to primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) are more stimulating than warm soft tones and will inhibit your guests from relaxing as much.

Seating

Comfortable booths and big soft chairs will keep guests seated longer. Balance comfort with your need to turn tables. Also, seating guests in the interior of your restaurant will encourage them to eat faster and speed up their meal.

Limit Menu Options

Large menus will slow down service for three reasons.

  • First, that added complexity will create longer ticket times in the kitchen.
  • Second, your guests will have a harder time making decisions.
  • Third, your guests are often less satisfied when their options are endless then they are with limited options.

This is known as the Paradox of Choice. It causes guests to compare their choice to the other options. If they ordered the black and bleu burger but were considering the brunch burger – even if the b&b burger was fantastic – part of their brain is always going to wonder if they other would have been better.

Don’t give them the opportunity to face that dilemma.

What’s Next?

Its most important that you find balance between quality of service, satisfied guests, per-person average check size, and table turns. Ultimately, the purpose of running a restaurant is to maximize profits. It’s up to you to determine what combination of speed and revenue per guest leads to the most satisfied guests with the most profits.

Don’t be afraid to test. Try something you have never tried before. Just be sure to measure your results so you know if its helping you reach your goals.

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