Jeremy Julian

Restaurant Wait Times: How to Keep Your Guests Happy!

April 25, 2018

Have you ever thought about making the wait experience better for your customers? Wondered if anyone else has a solution to solve this persistent issue? Well, you are in luck, because our friends over at NextME have found the solution. They put this article together for us, so we hope you enjoy!


Have you ever found your restaurant given poor marks online due to bad service? While it’s possible your staff just aren’t performing well, there may be another culprit in the mix here. If your guests have been waiting too long to be seated, their minds could be made up before their server even has a chance. Even the best waiters and waitresses will have trouble delighting diners who are already unhappy about the wait.


Having great food, a charming atmosphere, and helpful staff is no longer enough. In the age of Yelp, Google, facebook, and other restaurant apps and review sites, it’s become more important than ever to manage your restaurant’s wait times expertly. Every unsatisfied guest can spread the word and cause trouble for your establishment.

Identifying and Correcting the Problem

Of course, the issue could simply be that your staff needs better training to more effectively manage the front end. If this is the case, any investment of time or money made will almost certainly pay off.


Next, take some time to observe your busiest meals. Just stand back and watch, and you might be surprised at how much will jump out at you!

  • Are there inefficiencies in the kitchen that could be fixed?
  • Could that bottleneck near the kitchen doors be eliminated by adjusting traffic flow?
  • Is your credit card system painfully slow and in need of an update?
  • Is there a restaurant app or some other technology that would help improve staff efficiency?


Take notes. Then take action.


It’s also possible that there’s not a lot you can do to actually shorten wait times on your most popular days. Perhaps your kitchen and dining room run like clockwork. You simply have more guests than space. So what to do then?

Perception is Key

The truth is, perception can be your biggest foe, and greatest ally. Diners who have to sit in a cramped waiting area with nothing to do but stare at the walls will naturally feel like they’ve been waiting longer. But how to fix this?

  • Give the most accurate time estimates. If you tell a diner that it will be an hour wait, it better not be two. By contrast, quoting conservatively high estimates may lead some guests to simply find another eatery.
  • Allow your customers the freedom to explore the neighborhood by texting when their table is nearly ready. Prepare your front end staff to point out nearby points of interest like that beautiful mural a block down, or the funky boutique just next door.
  • Entertain and charm them while they wait. If folks choose to wait nearby, entertain them with free wifi, good music, and fun things to look at on the walls or out front. Access to your bar can also be a major bonus as guests can order drinks and peruse the menu while they wait.

How One Cafe Made It Work

The staff at Southport Grocery and Cafe put this into practice when they ran into some bad reviews online. While their brunch menu was a delight, and crowds were robust, they started seeing bad reviews targeting their service.


Management found the major issue: front-end staff was out of sync with the back-end. Guests were being given bad time estimates, waiting too long, and becoming unsatisfied with the entire experience. It was a major problem that caused a service perception catastrophe!


With the help of the NextME app, Southport Grocery managed to turn things around. They were able to give customers more accurate wait times. Guests could actually monitor their place in line, right from their own phones. And text messaging allowed them to explore the area rather than feeling trapped near the front door.


Now their online reviews are singing praises about their delicious food and imaginative menu. And the Southport Grocery brunch is once again the talk of the town, for all the right reasons!

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