From the supermarket to the post office, we have all stood and waited in a queue — and restaurants are no exception. A line of people standing and waiting happens because:
Some restaurateurs view a steady stream of guests as their best advertisement; others see it as a constant problem.
However today with mobile technology at hand, the continual line can be avoided.
In 2021 with restaurant software fully available on the market, the no-queue restaurant should now be firmly on the menu for customers worldwide. Here’s everything you need to know.
Figure 1. Queueing at Restaurant by Robycrux via Flickr
Summary — What’s Inside:
Restaurant lines have a long history, dating back to ancient days, but modern ideas of the queue have their origin in nineteenth-century Europe. With the advent of urbanisation and the creation of the restaurant as we know it today, “queue” began to refer to a process of “one after another” in both America and Britain.
Since then, both businesses and restaurants have employed this system to manage guest intake.
A contemporary restaurant’s pen-and-paper system operates on a first-come-first-served basis. Customers will enter, then shuffle into line, while a staff member serves them in order of arrival.
More intricate systems will log guest details and involve a lot of paperwork. Find out why a pen-and-paper system is bothersome for restaurants.
Ticket-based management is also a popular system, involving numbered tickets that go through the guestlist by number, but comes with a few problems. Paper-based tickets are easily lost, and this can cause delays or even prevent someone from joining a queue.
Some restaurants use pager systems, a form of on-site communication allowing customers to leave and remain in the restaurant’s vicinity. However, restaurant pagers tend to be bulky and have to be carried by hand. They also tie customers to the immediate local area — they restrict customers from doing what they like.
It may seem like the only way to manage guest inflow. However, today with technology at our fingertips and a better understanding of what customers want, asking guests to line up is really an old-fashioned concept — read about why it’s a myth to think otherwise. Here are a few reasons.
From a customer’s perspective, long waiting lines are a strong deterrent. Imagine you’re in the street and you find a long procession outside your restaurant. A study at University College London showed that most customers are unwilling to wait in line for six minutes maximum — no more. So if nearby restaurants have tables available, customers will probably dine there.
Customers would prefer to know how long their wait will be — not to stand in line with an interminable stay in sight. “People feel more anxious,” one restaurant consultant has said, “if they don’t know how long they have to wait”. Giving an accurate idea of how long the wait will mean they are more likely to relax and stay, but with a physical line predicting accurate to-the-minute wait times can be a pipe dream.
With a single file of incoming people flowing out the door, restaurants may try entertaining their guests or handing out free samples to improve everyone’s waiting experience. Dishing out samples however costs your kitchen time and your business extra incurred expenses.
Having to wait in line is annoying and frankly creates frustration. If people are waiting for longer than they first expected, they’re already starting out as unsatisfied customers. Your staff will have to strategize and find solutions to counter potential complaints, creating unnecessary stress. With difficult customers being an inevitability in the restaurant industry, isn’t it easier to ditch the physical line altogether?
Queue management software is simple: it transfers the physical line to a virtual waitlist, digitally handling a restaurant’s list of guests. It allows guests to enter a waitlist via a mobile device, or online; anywhere from their home to the bar next door.
A queue system targets the four main problems associated with physical lines:
A restaurant queue app has adapted to our instant digital world. Customers now expect ease of service — not lining up when it is no longer necessary.
Just look at how technology has eliminated queues in other sectors. In supermarkets, customers can now scan groceries as they shop, avoiding checkout waiting times. With online banking, account holders can now make transactions and organise finances without having to do it in-branch. As one BBC report recently put it, in today’s world “queueing is very often superfluous”.
Currently, there are many digital options available on the market. Restaurant owners will have to consider pricing schemes, ranging from high to low.
First, when weighing up options, restaurants will have to ask themselves what sort of lines they have dealt with.
Figure 3. Queue by Giulio Gigante via Flickr
Every queue-handling option is different, but all systems need the restaurant operator to address the type of traffic their restaurant usually deals with. To find out, ask yourself these questions.
With all this in mind, it’s time to weigh up software features.
Since the 1980s restaurants have used technology to handle their queues. Restaurant pager systems became mainstream particularly in places like the US, allowing customers to wait in the restaurant’s vicinity, buzzing when it was time to be seated.
However in 2021, this method is outdated.
In the wake of COVID-19, restaurants are now adopting contactless methods, such as QR-coded menus. Also, using pagers is costly compared to a modern alternative — an app’s 2-way communication features are far more accurate and easier to use. Handing someone a pager when they already have a smartphone sits uncomfortably in a restaurant’s way of doing things.
An app for queue management is the complete opposite — portable and easy to use. When looking for the right app, here are a few things to consider.
Here are 5 features that you want to look for:
Mobile apps should be completely easy to use, focusing on completing one task really well. With this in mind, a restaurant app should fulfil three basic criteria:
When it comes to SMS features, there are few things to bear in mind. You will want to send confirmations and wait time notifications to your restaurant’s customers — but this may come at a cost. Here’s a brief overview
So you might be thinking, “Does it work?” The short answer: yes. An effective app makes the job easy. Here’s how.
First, apps save both customers and restaurants time. The simple process of joining a virtual line remotely or inputting someone’s name and phone number is very easy. Instead of being at the host stand handling the physical line, restaurant staff can now complete other tasks, while using their phone to receive incoming customers. Quick and simple.
In 2015 the Washington Post reported that 15 percent of customers find waiting lines overwhelming. This may sound surprising, but this problem has existed for a long time. In the 1980s a US psychologist directed a field study observing customer behaviour and found that a significant amount of participants experienced anxiety — so great the BBC reports, that they were “visibly pale” and suffered nausea.
A restaurant app welcomes all customers with a simple, easy-to-do process, reducing anxiety from ever occurring.
Most obviously an app dispenses the physical line, allowing customers to be elsewhere. This frees up space in your restaurant, curbing any related problems — for example, staff having to navigate through impatient customers.
Rather than standing in line guests can do whatever they like while they wait. They can also check the status of their wait whenever they feel like it — an app offers them a more concrete idea of when they will eat. A simple text message waitlist means the process of waiting is no longer a hassle. Read how a virtual approach successfully lets customers leave to return later.
Management software allows you to know your guests, helping your restaurant develop lasting relationships with clientele. This is easy: with inbuilt databases, your restaurant can know a customer’s tastes, preferences — even upcoming special occasions.
With all these great things in mind, it’s now time to discuss an important factor every restaurant owner will need to consider: the cost.
Restaurant owners will inevitably have to weigh up the costs of software. Here’s a sum-up of what most companies are looking for.
Top companies charge a monthly fee, billed annually, averaging several thousand GBP a year. Bigger businesses usually go with this plan, but another option is to pay for a location fee (per branch), which is typically more expensive. Monthly plans range from standard to pro options, with SMS notifications and app customisation being limited to restaurant owners that are willing to pay more.
Some systems go the extra mile and provide device kiosks (e.g. iPad at the front door), fully customisable to suit your restaurant’s style. Of course, this comes at a price: Both installation and the cost of hardware sometimes come with the plan your restaurant chooses, but can also go on top as an extra cost.
If your restaurant chooses a basic plan, most companies will offer add-ons — extra services and features to make their system better. For example, analytics is a common add-on that companies sell to help your restaurant develop data-driven tactics improving waitlist management.
So what else is there? What about an app that is truly free with all features included?
The Carbonara App helps your restaurant minimise wait times, personalise guest management, and enhance customer experience all completely free.
Fostering a faster, more enjoyable waiting experience for guests, Carbonara App also comes with free analytics. As your restaurant manages guest intake your email inbox receives regular statistics reports, providing a breakdown of goals most relevant to you — your restaurant’s average wait times for example.
Read our beginner’s guide to analytics to find out more.
Unlike anyone else Carbonara App also absorbs all SMS costs — one hundred percent free.
Curious to try out the first-ever truly free app to avoid the queue at restaurants? Let Carbonara App help you positively transform how you interact with guests and download today!
Find out more: