Effectively seating guests, taking and serving orders, and keeping guests happy during their meal is no easy feat. In comes table management… a way to turn tables efficiently by tracking tables and managing customers throughout their dining experience. It helps staff avoid confusion and paves the way for higher customer satisfaction and higher profit margin.
Small restaurants may effectively manage tables by a printed floor plan managed by the host or primary wait staff. Yet, when peak hours or an extra rush of guests appear, staff can become overwhelmed with the number of tables. This affects both wait staff and the kitchen, which inevitably leads to unhappy guests.
Are you ready to take a closer look at the ways in which you can run a smarter restaurant and manage your tables efficiently? Let’s get started!
The modern way to manage tables effectively is by investing in a table management app through the following steps:
Choosing a Table Management App
Your POS system should play a huge role in restaurant table management. If you do not have a POS with the ability to integrate table management, look for a new POS that offers table management as one of its many features. Choosing the best app for your restaurant may also provide ways for you to efficiently handle menu management, customer payments, and staff scheduling. The right table management app will automate your seating processes (especially for those rush times) and turn over tables quickly while keeping your customers happy.
The key features to seek in a table management app include:
- Replicate your actual table layout in the app.
- See how many people are seated at any given table.
- View open tables.
- View the size of each open table so you can appropriately seat parties.
- Keep track of tabs for the bar section of your restaurant.
- Track open orders.
- Track each table’s payment status.
Help Your Staff Maximize Efficiency
There are other ways your table management process can help both you and your staff. There should be written guidelines for successfully tending to tables, whether this means making sure water glasses are always filled or ensuring servers don’t rush customers through their meal. By clearly explaining exactly what you expect from your staff and keeping an open communication line, you’ll be running your restaurant effectively and efficiently in many ways, such as:
- Providing feedback on a regular basis by openly communicating with your staff about what they’re doing well and where there are areas of improvement. If you encourage an open dialogue, staff will be more receptive to your feedback and feel more comfortable giving you theirs. Remember to include customer feedback as motivation to provide excellent customer service to guests at all times.
- Using the table management feature in your POS system, track which servers are turning the most tables. You can then use this information to help underperforming servers help customers more quickly. This may mean determining their strengths and weaknesses in certain sections and repositioning them on the floor based on that.
- Beyond simply observing the data you receive through your table management app, it’s important to act on what you learn from that data. This means being aware of when times are busy and ensuring you and your staff make the right accommodations.
- Plan for busy periods of time. As shifts get busy, make sure each server has an area they cover so they can efficiently assist each customer. You don’t want a table to go without service for extended periods of time, or for them to feel rushed throughout the experience.
- Be strategic about where your hosts seat people. Don’t have multiple people seated in one server’s area in a short period of time, while other servers’ sections are empty. Make sure your host staff pays attention to how long parties have been seated in certain areas, who is close to departing, and where the optimal place would be for each arriving guest.
- Use the layout feature of your table management app to seat customers more evenly. This will lead to a lower level of stress among your staff and a higher level of customer satisfaction.
While you may not have control over how long a group of customers stays at their table, you can control how long it takes to clean up the table in between parties. Try out these strategies to limit the amount of time between parties:
- Make cleanup quick. Cleanup should be as fast as possible. Be sure your bussers are paying attention to when customers depart so they can quickly refresh the table.
- Get parties ready ahead of time. You can even call parties to the host stand when their table is close to being ready so they can quickly be seated once their name is called. This will prevent extra time where the host is searching or calling the party’s name through a crowded entryway.
- A robust POS system can help you track how long tables are left open between seatings. From there, you can set guidelines to minimize the amount of time staff spends refreshing tables.
- Get tables turned over quickly by incorporating these strategies and tracking the progress in your POS system. Your data can help keep you on track, but it’s truly up to your staff to carry out the tasks at hand.
Record Information About Your Customers
The great thing about having restaurant management software with a table management feature is that you can keep all of your data in one place and easily access as needed. This is especially important when you need to record information about your customers.
Keeping notes about customer preferences is key to providing them with a positive dining experience and making their future visits easier on your staff. You can achieve this in the following ways:
- Accept online reservations. Online reservations are a must these days, and they prevent mistakes or overbooking and can collect customer information and preferences from these online bookings. This way, you’ll be prepared when the customer arrives and able to accommodate their table preferences, dietary restrictions, and more, leading to a quicker and more satisfactory experience.
- Make notes in your POS system about customer preferences. If your customers haven’t made an online reservation, you can still record their preferences! Whether this means where they like to sit, what they’ve ordered in the past, or how long it typically takes them to dine, all of these notes can help your staff assist customers during future visits.
- Use the data to impact your table management strategy. If you know that certain returning customers have a tendency to sit at their table for a couple of hours, for example, you can use that data to seat them in a section with a server who can accommodate that.
Knowing when a table will turn and having this data readily available will not only help you give those customers a great experience, but it will also positively impact your restaurant’s overall daily operation. You can keep tables turning by being strategic about where you seat particular parties and leverage data to keep everything running smoothly.
Ask for customer feedback.
While exchanging feedback with your staff is impactful, one of the most effective ways to ensure you’re managing your tables efficiently is by asking for direct feedback from your customers. Your table management app may make things smoother, but it’s still important to make sure it’s impacting your customers’ experience in a positive way. Be sure to collect customer information (such as email addresses) in your customer database so you can proactively send out a survey or other form of communication to solicit feedback.
Minimize the amount of time between the dining visit and the survey. You should solicit feedback in a timely manner in order to get accurate comments while the customer’s memory of their experience is still fresh. Once you’ve received feedback, add the information to your customer database so that your staff can use it next time and better tailor their service to the customer’s needs.
Updating your customer database with their preferences and other histories with your restaurant is essential to learning how you can improve their experience. It’s also a great way to see where you’re excelling. Ask for direct feedback from your customers and you’ll be in a great position to enhance their experience and streamline your table management process.
A Non-tech Table Management Consideration
Part of good restaurant management is to maximize the number of parties you can accommodate each day. It’s also important to customize your tables based on where your restaurant is located and the types of customers you cater to. For instance, if you’re in a family-friendly or touristy area, you’ll have a higher quantity of larger tables available to accommodate those parties, whereas a restaurant in a more secluded or exclusive area may have a higher quantity of two-top tables for couples and smaller groups.
All of these are important factors to consider when choosing the table management app best suited to your restaurant. Determine if your restaurant could use an upgrade and what features would be most beneficial to incorporate. After all, an upfront investment can save you a lot of time, money, and energy down the line.
By having a real-time representation of your customers and the tables servers are tending to, you can streamline your daily operations and keep everything running smoothly. Not only will you see what tables are available and how far along into the meal customers are, but you’ll also see how long they have been seated.
Choosing the right restaurant table management app comes down to a few things: your POS system capabilities and integrations, your current table layout, and your restaurant’s needs. From there, you can begin streamlining your table management process with an automated system that works for you, your staff, and your customers. There are strategies you can take advantage of for a smarter restaurant. Determine what your restaurant could benefit from and try out these methods for yourself!