Whether you own a downtown bistro or a local dinner, preparation is key to running any successful restaurant. And that is doubly true when it comes to maintaining a high level of service during your busy season. From waitstaff calling in sick to equipment malfunction, unfortunately, things outside of your control can (and will) go wrong. That is why it is so important to be proactive, streamlining your process and creating the foundation for a successful dinner rush. Here are a few steps you can take to provide better service during your restaurant’s busy season…
#1: INCREASE YOUR SUPPORT STAFF
Providing seamless service starts with hiring and training excellent servers, but it doesn’t stop there. In order to ensure your guests have a positive experience from start to finish, you need to have a solid support staff. Chaos at the host stand or in the kitchen creates chaos in the dining room. So, staffing additional support during your busy season can make all the difference. Likewise, having an extra set of ears and eyes with an additional front manager ensures you are able to quickly address any guest issues and provide server assistance as needed. 7shifts recommends that you schedule based on your past sales data for the best accuracy, as well as cross-train your employees, so servers, hosts, bussers, dishwashers, and food runners can fulfill other roles as needed.
#2: MANAGE CALL VOLUME
Are people calling to ask about wait times, drink specials, or reservations at your busiest times? Your VoIP phone system is an excellent tool for helping you manage the busy season. Your auto attendant can route callers based on their needs, like sending to-go orders directly to the bar, or routing event request to the catering manager’s voicemail. You can also program professionally recorded messages to share your hours, offer info on specials, and more. This allows you to more efficiently address the needs of callers, while freeing up your hosts to better focus on arriving customers.
#3: CONSIDER THE DETAILS
Would handing out menus 15 minutes before waiting guests are seated help you turn tables faster? Would moving your menu or drink promotions to off-peak times allow you to better manage peak season? The little efforts you make do make an impact on enhancing the guest experience. Not sure where to start? Whether service has been hampered by issues with ticket times, long lines at the service bar, or poor seating rotation, consult your staff. They may have some great creative solutions.
#4: COACH DON'T DICTATE
When things get hectic, it’s very easy to get caught up in the chaos. The next time the wrong food gets delivered or an order doesn’t get entered on time, don’t scold the server or interrogate the kitchen…that only adds to the tension. Address the problem and find the appropriate solution. Then have a conversation about what happened at the end of the night when things calm down. Yelling at staff during an already busy time only makes the situation more stressful, and that can effect the service they provide. Coaching your staff and providing them with conflict resolution tools will allow them to create a more positive experience for your guests, and that’s ultimately the goal.
#5: MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
One of the fastest ways to ruin your restaurant’s reputation is by overpromising and underdelivering. Whether it’s accepting a reservation you can’t accommodate or keeping customers waiting beyond their quoted time, you can’t provide quality service when you set yourself up for failure. Managing expectations also means keeping guests informed. Has the menu recently changed? Are your drink specials reserved for Happy Hour only? Use your website, social media, and on-hold messaging to keep your guests in the know. If you inform customers before they arrive, you are less likely to deal with issues during the rush.