7 Best ways to speed up counter service in your restaurant

Various restaurants have their unique approaches to customer service. It’s an integral part of their authenticity.

Various restaurants have their unique approaches to customer service. It’s an integral part of their authenticity. Consider a Fine Dining establishment where waiters personally take orders at each table, whereas a QSR or fast-food chain utilizes static counters and kiosks for order taking convenience. Regardless, every restaurant's order must undergo a process that ultimately determines if operational enhancements are needed.

If that process is slow, it could impact your customer's waiting times and affect their perception of your brand. Here are 7 best ways to speed up your counter process so you can serve your customers without delays.  

1. Implement a QR Code Menu  

With technology readily available in hand, why not make use of it? QR code menus have become quite the norm today, but if you still aren’t on the wagon yet, you better hurry! QR Code Menus are automated menus which are available on every table and accessible through a mobile phone.  

When a customer is ready to order, they can simply visit the QR, browse the digital menu, check your specials for the day, and place their order right then and there, and it notifies the order to your front-of-house counter along with their table number. All they must do is pass on the order simply to the kitchen.

How do you implement a QR code to your existing physical order taking system? It’s easy.  

Step 1 – Create a digital PDF version of your menu – if you do not have (your designer could help you with this. Or you could use Adobe/Canva tools to develop it)

Step 2 – Generate your QR code using any Free QR code generator. You can even create multiple QRs for separate tables or customize its look.  

Step 3 – Connect your menu link to the QR code

Step 4 – Download it and place it wherever you like.  

If you want to automate the order’s journey and have an editable digital menu for the ease of your staff and employees, you could introduce a tool for order management which would help 2x your productivity and save inventory.  

2. Utilize a table reservation system that accommodates pre-orders

Arriving at your favorite restaurant with an empty stomach, only to discover all tables are taken, is truly disheartening. Yes, this is exactly what your loyal customers go through often wishing they could have reserved a spot in advance. In such instances, they're left with the choice of waiting for their turn or, in the worst-case scenario, having to leave.  

Many restaurants do have reservation systems, but they’re barely operating, and there’s a good reason for this. Customers may reserve a table only to be a no-show, leading to lost sales for you.

The ideal solution for this is to share the risk at 50/50 by allowing table pre-orders online.  

This means that in order for your customers to reserve a table, they are required to pre-order a meal or part of it. It goes beyond a reservation fee, but it helps secure a share of a sale if it turns into a no-show.  

You could set this feature up on your website for ‘pre-order table reservations’ which is very similar to ordering online.

3. Allocate easy-order kiosks and counters for loyalty members

A loyalty program goes a long way. Returning customers, at some point, wish to feel appreciated by you. You don't necessarily have to offer discounts and buy-one-get-one offers. It's the small gestures that can uplift the mood inside your restaurant, starting right at the counter.

Allocate separate self-service kiosks where customers can order and redeem their points, or counters dedicated to your loyalty members where they simply have to add in or provide their loyalty ID and order their meals, while payments will be automatically deducted from their added payment methods or loyalty points.  

How can you set up an easy-order system?

  • Create a secured loyalty log in where customers could create a profile and get a unique ID (either through your website or mobile app)
  • Enable entering payment methods  
  • Make your loyal customers’ dining experience seamless!  

Speak to your technology provider on how you can incorporate this into your current system.

4. Implement occupancy-based staff scheduling

When there’s high table turnover, the rush within and out of the kitchen tends to intensify. That’s why you should plan on an occupancy-based staff scheduling. This way, you won't have too many or too few staff members. It helps you save money on staff wages when it's not too busy and ensures you have enough help during busy times.  

Here are some of the time periods during which you must pay close attention to staff allocations. The past year’s performances would help you decide.  

  • National holidays and cultural days  
  • Fridays and long weekends  
  • Summer Weekends
  • Special offers and Seasonal offers
  • December holidays

Depending on where your restaurant is located (Is it in the metropolitan or somewhat away from the hustle and bustle?) and what your specialties are, the demand patterns would change. In this matter, you’d know your restaurant and its customers best.

5. Provide counter staff training

It's a common but often overlooked situation in many restaurants. If you're dealing with high staff turnover and don't conduct regular training sessions for your front-of-house team, new employees might have to learn their roles on their own, impacting their performance.

To ensure your counter staff is efficient and accurate, consider creating a training manual to keep them well informed.

What should your counter staff training manual include?

  • Key points about your restaurant and its food (Think of what your customers would want to know)
  • A breakdown of the entire counter order taking process, what to do and what not to do
  • Hypothetical scenarios and how to act in those situation
  • A very simple guide on using your POS system  
  • Rules and regulations

Apart from a training manual, be sure to include your POS training in the onboarding process so that your new staff gets clear and practical guidance.  

You can find many creative templates for your training manual. Key is that it should be engaging enough to get your staff to read it through and not only glance at it.  

6. Ensure your drive-through is proactive

If your restaurant features a drive-through, remember that it's essentially an extension of your in-house counter. The drive-through requires even faster service. Unlike a regular counter, once a customer joins the drive-through queue, there's no turning back.

Delaying the process increases frustration in the queue, so ensure your drive-through staff is proactive to avoid keeping customers waiting.

Here are some of the tips you can follow to ensure overall proactiveness:

  • Perform weekly maintenance of equipment including kiosks and POS hardware.  
  • Include mandatory drive-through training sessions in your staff onboarding process to ensure that every member is aware of how it operates.  
  • Use data to analyze the average per-order delivery time across different interval periods to identify problematic points that need addressing.  

7. Revamp your counter layout and ambience  

If you've experimented with various solutions and still face challenges with delayed counter service, consider upgrading your counter layout and ambience. In situations beyond your control, ensure your customers aren't uncomfortable while waiting for service. Surround the counter area with visually pleasing decor and ornaments to engage your customers. This not only improves the waiting experience but also enhances the overall ambience.

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