Running a restaurant is a notoriously hard business. A study in the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly found that almost 60% of restaurants turn over in their first 3 years of operation. Turning over doesn’t necessarily mean going out of business (it also encompasses changes in management), but as the owner of a restaurant this should concern you nonetheless.
So how do you rise above? The study found that restaurants who focused on a clear concept outperformed those lacking vision. A concept is more than a food product, “but also included an operating philosophy, which encompassed business operations, effective restaurant management, as well as employee and customer relations.”
At the end of the day, your restaurant will make it or break it depending on the ‘butts in your seats.’ The engine that drives those covers is your front-of-house, and how you manage it can have a huge impact (positive or negative) on how guests feel about your restaurant. Below are three key areas of front-of-house / restaurant management that, if focused on, can help you quickly improve the guest experience and profitability of your restaurant.
Greeting and Seating
Greeting and seating. It seems pretty simple, but these should be the two principle activities performed by your hosts. Guests should be greeted as they arrive, and either seated (if they have a reservation) or given an accurate estimate of the wait time. Time is wasted when your host is head down trying to calculate wait times, repeatedly checking in with guests about their table, or on the sidewalk outside trying to chase down somebody.
How hosts are trained to interact with guests varies from place to place, but your restaurant will be better off if your hosts spend more time greeting and seating. Try to hone in on increased accuracy in estimated wait times, and experimenting with guest management systems that allow guests to wait on their terms. Nobody involved likes loitering around the host stand wondering when their table will be ready.
From a purely economic standpoint, turning more tables on a busy night means more money in your pocket. The front-of-house, in tandem with the wait staff and the bussers, must be fully cooperative in order to optimize table turn. But it’s important for your guests not to feel rushed.
A well-trained host can visualize the floor map, and has a refined sense of when which tables will be freeing up. This allows them to give accurate wait-times, which translates to less guests walking away to the place next door, and more meals served each night. Of course your wait staff must stay on top of their tables and the bussers must quickly clear dishes away, but efficiency flows from the front-of-house.
The third category, guest recognition, is a little more nuanced in its benefits to your restaurants. Unlike turning more tables, getting guests seated quickly, or reducing your walk-aways, it’s harder to put a number on the value of recognition. But think about walking into your favorite childhood restaurant. The one your parents always took you to.
Why did they go there? Because they liked the food? Sure. But so much of returning to a restaurant over and over again is that feeling of comfort, familiarity, and some sense of importance. Well-trained hosts remember regular customers, know what tables they like, and know to have the waiter bring a certain drink to the table as they sit down.
In a perfect world, this host of your dreams already works for you. More than likely, however, they don’t. Thankfully, technology is increasingly offering solutions to speed up the effectiveness of your front of house.
Interested in assessing some of the options available? Subscribe to our blog or check back next week as we break down some of the options available to you.