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Manage Your Waitlist

If your restaurant has enough guests to have a lengthy wait list, then you must be doing something right!  To maximize profits, and perhaps more importantly, ensure a positive experience for your guests, we have a few suggestions for making the waiting time as stress-free as possible.

The Wait List Environment

Crowds Send Mixed Messages

Even if you have an online wait list, you still need to upkeep an ideal environment for guests who may wait for their place in person. There are a variety of important factors to consider with a waiting area.
First, avoid simply crowding the front. There are some advantages to looking busy, but guests may wrongfully assume that the wait list is too long for their needs and may abandon your place for other establishments. You want to give off the vibe that the wait is only maybe 15-30 minutes, at most, and that means either having a dedicated waiting area or a means to contact people via text so patrons don’t feel they need to wait out front.

Offer Drinks and Entertain

Make the place hospitable. At the very least have seating, but if you can go the extra mile (and earn an extra buck) you can start serving waiting area guests with drinks and even appetizers, if you don’t mind the extra work of keeping track of the bill.
It’s not unusual to seat wait list patrons at the bar area for a short while, so long as the bar area isn’t too busy. Some places even go so far as to have a live musician entertain wait list guests, although this is usually reserved for only the top-tier restaurants.

Special Attention to Guests

Pay special attention to anxious guests. It’s not a bad idea to converse with guests if it seems appropriate, as it will pass time and ease tensions. Seasoned professionals can even tell when a guest may have a deadline and may need special arrangements to accommodate their needs.
While its unethical to have guests cut wait list lines, you can always start preparing food in advance, recommending faster prepared entrees, or skipping even skipping things like dessert. Your guests will appreciate the special attention and be more likely to come back, or at least leave a bigger tip.

Utilizing Text Messaging and More

Management Systems

As a bare minimum, wait list attendees should have their party size and number listed. It’s ordinary to text or call people when it is almost time for them to be seated, giving them a few minutes to return. You will always want to plan around large parties and parties with reservations, given it’s easier to manage. You should also never seat incomplete parties, as they will always take longer to make an order.
There are other options, however, which can be more effective. For these, you can look for a table management solution. This include options to improve server access to tables, check times for when tables will become available for set expectations, add reservations and walk-ins to a list with the floor plan in mind, and update guests with the status of the wait list in real-time.

Pay at the Table System

Lastly, your place can add more space or opt for a pay-at-the-table system. A pay-at-the-table system is a means to pay for food via a QR code or a handheld point of sale device. This allows for more time to prep a table after the patron pays for their meal, and ensures a smooth transition for the next guest. Alternative, can always also opt to pay at the counter as well if your establishment is casual enough.

If your establishment does not have such a system, be sure to bring it up with your management. Since the pandemic, these systems have become more common as a form of hygiene, rather than just efficiency.