Jeremy Julian

How to Optimize Operations at Your No-Reservation Policy Restaurant

March 28, 2018

Do you have a no-reservation policy at your restaurant? Have you been thinking about implementing one? Then we have a wonderful treat for you! Our friend Lauren Fellure, who is the Head of Marketing at NextMe, provided us with great insight into optimizing operations when you have a no-reservation restaurant.


The winds of change are blowing in the restaurant industry. Are you ready?


In years past, if you wanted to eat at a trendy restaurant, or to enjoy a meal at an upscale dining room, you had better make a reservation. For the hottest places, reservations had to be made weeks or even months in advance, and if you’re not “in the know”, good luck getting one at all.


But where’s the spontaneity in that?


Today, even in the most sought-after food capitals, many of the newest up-and-coming eateries are adopting first come, first served policies. This is great news for restaurateurs, and also for anyone who’d rather kill some time at the bar than have to plan way in advance for date night.


And yet, “Walk-In Only” is not without its challenges.


How do restaurants deal with problems like long lines, poorly estimated wait times, or crowds standing in the way near the door? In the age of online reviews and restaurant apps, every disappointed customer can spread the word and cause others to stay away. Better get a handle on these issues quick!


Long Lines

If your hostess always seems to have a list of names a mile long waiting for a table, there are some steps you can take to alleviate the problem. Faster table turns are one of the best ways of increasing revenue for any restaurant. Here are a few tips:

  • Make sure guests are ready when it’s their turn to be seated. You can do this by calling them back to the hostess stand a few minutes before the table is ready. It also may help to offer menus so guests can decide on their food while they wait to be seated, increasing table turns.
  • Make sure the wait staff is prompt in taking orders. Ask for drink orders as diners are seated. And get a waiter to the table within one minute of seating. Guests may not be ready to order so quickly, but answering questions and recommending daily specials ASAP will help move things along.
  • Let technology help! From restaurant management apps to tableside payment processing, there are plenty of ways to use smartphones and tablets to help with table turnaround times.


Bad Time Estimates

Is there anything more frustrating than being told you’d be seated in a half hour, only to still be waiting for a table an hour later? As a business owner, you’ve likely also run into the opposite: the hostess wants to avoid confrontation so she always estimates a longer time. This leads to customers walking right out the door without even putting their names on the list. What a nightmare!


While this is primarily a training issue, a good grasp of analytic data can be helpful here too. Employ a technology solution to help you manage tables and seat guests, and you’ll likely find that it helps staff make more accurate estimates too! As a bonus, some apps even let the customer keep an eye on where they are on the list without having to check in with the host station multiple times.


Crowds at the Door

When there are large numbers of people waiting for a table, it’s not uncommon to see them congregating near the front door. This causes traffic problems for guests entering and leaving your establishment, and can cause diners to turn away before they ever make it through the door.


The simplest solution is to have a different area for people to wait. Whether you employ a seating only area, or non-reserved seating in the bar, this can clear the crowds away from the door significantly. But with space at a premium in trendy neighborhoods, can you really afford to take away from seating space?


Once again, technology comes to the rescue. Choose a long-range pager system to allow customers to run errands or browse nearby shops while they wait. Or better yet, make use of the technology they already carry with them and call or text your customers when their table is almost ready.


Technology Helps

If you’re looking for a solution to these and other challenges faced by eateries today, it might be time to check out some of the tech apps and software packages designed to help things run more smoothly. With so many tech options on the market today, many restaurant owners wonder if they can afford the expense and training time to make use of them. The real question just might be, can you afford not to? After all, the right restaurant app for your staff could mean the difference between delighting your guests and disappointing them.

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