Effective ways of reducing restaurant-customer wait times

The happiness every restaurant owner could have is seeing customers crowding their restaurants for different services. And it’s a dream for owners to have customers lining up for their services.

The good news is, many customers around or within the restaurant is a sign that your business is growing. But, the bad news is, too many customers may mean long wait times, especially if the restaurant has inefficient operations.

Longer restaurant wait times can never be good for your customers. It frustrates them, and the chances are high that if your customers experience crowds and long wait times, they may never return.

Suppose your restaurant is plagued with crowds and longer customer wait times. In that case, this article offers you’re the solution to your problems. It outlines some of the best tips you can implement to ensure your customers spends less time waiting for meals.

Firstly off, let’s find out more about restaurant customer wait times.

Understanding restaurant-customer wait times

Though most customers have the idea that once they enter a service place, they’ll have to wait until it’s their turn to be served, not all customers will be patient enough to wait.

Nonetheless, it’s significant that you consider reducing the amount of time your customers have to wait in lines for meals or services.

In simple terms, therefore, restaurant-customer wait times are the amount of time your customers stand or wait before you could offer their required services.

No matter the services you offer, the amount of time you take to service your customer would influence customers’ behaviors and revenues.

A restaurant frustrated customer waiting to be served.

So, how does waiting for time influence customers’ behavior?

Wait times are directly proportional to the customers’ satisfaction rates. When you keep your customers for long before servicing them, the chances are high that they will feel less satisfied and valued.

So they may end up looking for other restaurants that provide the same services they want. And that’s not good for your business. Besides, you can’t afford to lose clients for these two reasons:

Customers are the business

Your restaurant’s customers are the core of your business. And your success or failure is determined by how you treat them and how satisfied they are with your services or products.

When they feel you don’t meet their needs, they may abandon you for other restaurants. The worse thing ever in business is to allow your esteemed customers to have an option to your services.

When customers have a choice, even waiting would impact their decisions and behaviors. Therefore, you must ensure you find ways to maintain or retain your customers. It’s not easy to attract new customers as it may be to keep one.

So, you must focus on how to manage or make your customers stay, which includes reducing the amount of time your restaurant customers take before being served.

You need to build a brand

Your customers’ perceptions can either make or destroy your restaurant’s image or brand. If every customer talks and thinks well of your restaurant, you stand a chance of getting more sales. And that means more revenues.

You must understand that the customers’ perceptions are built on the services and products they receive and how well they are treated. Your services and product might be excellent, but if your customers feel you don’t value their time, then that would be the start of your downfall.

That said, you must ensure you strive to give your customer the best service, including honoring and respecting how long they wait for your assistance. These would ensure that you maintain a good brand image that would impact sales.

What causes restaurants longer wait times?

The average customer wait time in a restaurant would depend on the function and the customers’’ time. For instance, a study has shown that the average restaurant wait time per party is 23 minutes.

Unfortunately, sometimes the customers have to wait for more than the expected times. So what could be the reasons for delayed restaurant timing?

Inadequate staffing

Simply put, understaffing is when the business doesn’t have enough employees to manage or cover required work.

In restaurant management, having fewer staff would mean longer wait times, especially if customers are crowded at your restaurant. Imagine a scenario where you have over 100 customers being served with less than ten staff.

It means most customers would have to wait for others to be served. Since most customers are not fans of longer wait times, the chances are high that they would not turn back for your services.

What does that mean to the business?  Losing customers means a damaged image, reduced sales and revenues, stressed and strained employees, and your restaurant would definitely collapse.

In addition, having fewer employees would mean that they have to multi-task. However, if one staff has to serve several customers with different things, other customers would have to wait longer before the same employee comes back to help them.

Having multiple lines at the restaurant

This can be a crucial aspect in saving time. However, what happens if some of your customers see the other line moving while there is still?

Most of them would become agitated, especially seeing another person who has just arrived being assisted before them. This might instill the perception of unfairness, which may cause the customers to seek help at other businesses.

So what are some of the ways you can ensure effective restaurant operations that help in reducing restaurant-customer wait times?

Effective ways to reduce restaurant-customer wait times

  1. Focus on your employee’s training

In most cases, the success of a business would be determined by the employees, types and the quality of goods and services, and the customers.

When customers walk through your restaurant door, they need to see a happy and motivated staff who knows how to handle every step for faster services.

Therefore, you must provide your employees with practical customer service training to ensure they can manage customers at any given time, including managing traffic pressure.

If you have well-trained employees, that ensures a well-mange time would attract more customers to your restaurant. Most people coming to eat would love nothing other than food arriving at the table within a reasonable amount of time.  So if they can get that, then you have yourself a repeat and loyal customer.

       2. Pre-schedule your employees

Planning is everything in business. And scheduling would help create orders within the restaurant. Through scheduling, every employee would know what is expected of them to do within a particular time.

Proper scheduling would ensure that each employee focuses and covers their task at the appropriate times. If this happens, most services or goods will be ready and available at customers’ calls, reducing customer wait times.

In addition, creating a schedule help, the managers sort every table assignment while choosing the right employee that fits every task.

Through pre-scheduling and reshuffling of the employees, the manager would know the strengths and weaknesses of their staff. Therefore, they would put them on their best tasks.

Creating well-defined assignments and pre-scheduling is the first step to reducing restaurant-customer wait times.

     3. Provide distractions

One way to keep your customers occupied from checking their time is by distracting them. So, what are some of the ways you can deploy to ensure customers are distracted?

Offer entertainment while the customers wait

You need to play with your customers’ attention if you know they are going to have to wait for long before they are served. Therefore, you can offer distraction in the name of the game. When you involve your customers’ in playing games, they tend to focus on not losing than they do on time.

Offer visual distractions

You can have some screens showing movies, animations, and other music videos. These would distract their minds for some time and maybe make them forget how long they have been waiting.

You must be sure you offer various forms of movie distractions that include some family-related activities or themes. Such would work for the parents and kids; animation and cartoons would work best.

Provide snacks to the waiting customers

This sounds like bribing your customers, right? No, hungry customers would become more frustrated while they wait long for their food to arrive. That is, even if their wait time is just reasonable.

Therefore, offering snacks like nuts, chips, and bread. Snacks would help pre-occupy your diners while they wait for their meals.

A happy restaurant customer takes fruits while waiting for his meal.

Have an aesthetically designed waiting bay

You’re wondering how having an excellent waiting area would distract your customers? Simple, most customers would not want or like to stand in the restaurant, idling when they are unsure where or who to serve them. Or even where to be while waiting.

So, to help solve such problems, you must ensure you design a lovely and pleasing waiting patio or lounge. You may include some of the most beautiful arts and portraits of some meals you offer. Never forget to have comfortable chairs or seats.

Along with the seats and arts, you may include menus ready for customers to peruse while they wait. Also, you may have screens displaying other activities or events and services by the restaurant.

     4. Deploy technology for efficiency

Although longer wait times may look like a PR play, it can, however, be disastrous to your business success, especially in these digital eras where convenience is everything.

Besides, long wait times are turning away most customers as people’s patience while waiting for food is becoming awful each day. Apart from sending out valuable customers, longer wait times are slowing your restaurant’s operation efficiency.

But to help save your business and customers, you can leverage different technologies to help reduce restaurant-customer wait times. Here are some of the technologies to consider:

  Introduce a self-service kiosk

The self-service kiosk is a technological device that allows the customers to directly interact with the business to receive services conveniently.

Deploying a self-service kiosk in your restaurant would revolutionize your customers’ experience. They will no longer have to wait in lines but walk to the kiosk and make orders by paying their money. Then, wait for their food delivery.

The critical function of the self-service kiosk is to expedite your restaurant customers’ interactions and ensure quick and easy exchange operations. Many studies and research has shown that self-service technology significantly impacts customers’ satisfaction rate.

Whether your restaurant is fast food, high-end, or casual, if you want to reduce your restaurant-customer wait times, then it would be proper to have a self-service point. Or a place where your customers can easily book or choose tables without having to queue in lines.

Recent studies indicate a 9% increase in self-service kiosks since their adoption in restaurant operations. And apart from ensuring a quick exchange point, it also gives your customers the ability and freedom to explore different services by themselves.

So what’s the impact of the self-service kiosk on your employees?

Allowing your customers to choose and pay for what they need through the kiosk gives your staff ample time to handle other roles effectively. It means your employees won’t invest their time manning lines processing. Or taking orders from various customers that arrive at the restaurant; activities that slow down effective restaurant operations.

Related to the self-service kiosk is;

Using table management tools

Using table management technology as a mobile point of sale (POS) can significantly help reduce customer wait times in several ways.  Imagine the image your waiters and waitress create when they provide or bring a wrong order to a customer. Or the time they have to take collecting orders from different tables.

So, to help solve errors by waiters or waitresses and standard paper-tickets methods of ordering food, deploy table management tools including POS. That said, mount POS on your tables, that when your customers arrive, they’ll be able to browse through and place orders on foods they want.

Table tools also aid the payment procedures. There’s no queuing; the customers can pay bills at the comfort of their seats after or before the services depending on your guidelines.

Also, the payment method is much faster than having the restaurant server collect orders, then run to the counter and run back to the table. That’s too much time wasted.

Therefore, utilizing mobile POS would help shave minutes off all the procedures involved in serving customers, thus increasing turnover while getting your next customers seated.

     5. Operational improvements

Operation improvements include those processes and procedures you follow to ensure flawless movement of restaurant activities and functions.  So, you must make adjustments to how you operate if you want happy and loyal customers.

How can you ensure improved operations that provide effective time management?

Implement queue management systems

It can be a daunting task to stand in the lines waiting for long to be served. So to effectively help in reducing restaurant-customer wait times, it would be better if the restaurants implement queue management technologies to speed up service time.

In a simple definition, queue management systems are techniques used to manage customer wait time experiences. They provide pre-service and post-service assistance. The management may be both hardware and software help.

Therefore, you can deploy the following wait time management systems for faster services:

Use of virtual and hybrid queues– virtual queues allow a restaurant to create online wait lines. The customer doesn’t physically have to stand on the lines.

Also, consider using customer and staff notifications and real-time monitoring apps that ensure both the customers and staff are aware of what they need.

How would queue management systems benefits you?

They ensure:

  • Reduced wait time- they identify and streamlines customer’s journey
  • Reduced customers’ uncertainty of wait time through notifications and messages
  • Increased staff planning and mobility as they know when to expect a customer
  • Increased personalization of service and delivery- staff can concentrate on individual customer
  • Improved access services through appointments and reservations

Offer appointment scheduling and reservations

Another excellent technique to ensure restaurant operations improvement and reduce wait times uncertainty is providing appointment scheduling or reservations to your employees.

So, create an open-access scheduling/advanced or same-day scheduling that would allow your customers to choose their preferred time that works for them.  This implies that when they arrive, you quickly have to respond to their needs.

The advance or prior reservations would also give your employees time to prepare for the coming customers. They can check the information and the customer and prepare every personalized service waiting for customers’ arrivals.

    6. Be transparent and keep your customers informed

Most customers will mind waiting if they know how long they have to wait for them to be served. However, suppose you keep them waiting without any communication of the amount of time they’ll take. In that case, they will most likely leave after waiting for a few minutes.

Therefore, to help reduce the pressure of customer wait time, make your wait times public or known to them. You may have an exact approximate wait time for certain services. This helps your customers be informed. Better still, it keeps your customers from misjudging in case of longer wait times.

     7. Ensure Proper Staffing

Having adequate staffing is attributed to several importance. The most essential to your restaurant is helping in meeting customer expectations and boosting service delivery. When you have few employees, there are high chances for burnout, especially when there are many customers to handle.

However, if you have enough employees would reduce employee attrition while improving their morale. Your employees can always be sure of shared responsibilities—meaningless burnouts.

Related to staffing;

     8. Ensure you a reduced staff apathy

A simple definition of staff apathy is having employees who lack interests, feelings, and concern—in short, having staff that is never motivated to do their tasks.

There could be so many reasons for employees’ apathy. So, you must ensure you have staff who are always motivated to work and are highly concerned with their customers. Remember, a happy team is a satisfied customer.

But why is employee apathy a hindrance to effective restaurant operations?

It can be a worse feeling to see the person you’re expecting to serve you sitting and casually chatting in some corner. You’ll feel agitated and irritated. So, if your customers have the same feelings, it means they can quickly lose confidence in your services and your restaurant. That calls for one thing, ensure you motivate your staff.


In almost all industries, restaurants included, customers would always demand faster services no matter what it takes. And they would only care about their time. Besides, what are they paying you for?

But in providing services to their customers, most restaurants have struggled to find a balance between offering quality services and cutting on the customer wait times. So, to ensure reduced customer service time, every restaurant must provide adequate and adequately trained staff and improve their operations by implementing queue management systems.

Also, restaurants should ensure that they deploy technology like table management tools like a mobile post on sale and self-service kiosks for efficiency. Finally, restaurants may offer entertainment, snacks, and other visual distractions like screens and movies. This would take up the customers’ attention, distracting them from constantly checking the time.