Constantly, a tug-of-war torments the casual restaurant customer. Customers are caught between the pull of long waiting lines and the service they want. In an ideal world, the ad hoc restaurant queue would simply disappear — and now with a virtual queue they can.
Here are four scenarios where average restaurant wait times have damaged restaurant revenue.
Figure 1. Clock at Two Sons Restaurant by David Wilson via Flickr
Summary — What’s Inside:
Research is essential to improving any type of service and can be as beneficial as implementing new marketing strategies.
In 2018, a peer-reviewed study proved that average wait times are important.
Conducting an experiment on a participating restaurant in South Asia, three academics journeyed out and observed customer behaviour in long queue situations. They had found that waiting definitely affects customer behaviour.
Throughout the restaurant’s busiest period, they had observed that longer waiting times result in a long time before a customer returns after their initial visit.
Also, the lengthier the customer’s wait, the shorter their dining experience — that is, they became eager to leave as soon as possible.
Therefore, generally speaking, customers are eager to get out of a restaurant when their wait extends beyond an acceptable time. This has immediate implications on a restaurant’s overall revenue. Customers become less willing to spend and to dwell in restaurants.
It’s easy to figure out why: An extended wait has the potential to dull — even destroy — the customer’s experience of dining out, their enjoyment of the meal ahead.
Further, these authors had shown that without strenuous waiting times, a restaurant could expect to see its revenue increase by 15 per cent.
The findings of this study have extended our knowledge on the consequences of customer waiting times, enabling restaurants to better understand both the financial and operational impact of waiting-related decisions.The lengthier the customer’s wait, the shorter their dining experience — that is, they became eager to leave as soon as possible. Click To Tweet
New York is a world leader in hospitality venues but currently, it’s struggling.
A recent report has drawn on the difficulty of recruiting employees to illustrate the increasing burden on remaining restaurant staff. As such, small hospitality teams have more work to do.
New constraints have also increased the difficulty: Indoor customers now have to show proof of vaccination.
Therefore, a wave of new restrictions and setbacks have hardened longer waiting times and imperilled the rebound in revenue that restaurants have long hoped for.
Short-staffed restaurants have fewer resources, time, and energy to process the crowds entering their doors — and the new vaccine requirements measure has only made their job harder.
So, staff operating at lower capacities and the need for vaccine verification have both lowered customer tolerance for long waiting times. The indirect effect on revenue is two-fold, affecting both table turnover and subsequent in-flow of money.
In India’s commercial and fashion centre Mumbai, the nightlife is an integral part of its urban culture. The city is at its busiest during the late hours, but this has changed substantially in the past year.
Restaurants city-wide bear the brunt of a governmental restriction that requires them to close at 22:00 (10:00 PM IST) every evening.
“Time spent at a restaurant is for leisure and a little relaxation,” said one spokesperson at India’s Restaurant Association. “However, with the 10pm deadline, the experience feels more like following a schedule.”
Many guests have to rush through dinner — in many cases, they are unable to finish meals.
This is a problem for restaurant revenue. Since Mumbai’s restaurants have experienced a surge in footfall, meeting demand has become tougher. More guests mean more people who have to wait — and the deadline restricts how many guests can come to a restaurant at the same time.
Waiting times have prevented Indian restaurants from processing as many customers as they would like. These restaurants make 75 percent of their profits from dinner business in the evening. A push to extend time limits to 01:30 AM is not enough — an operational framework that methodically manages guest waiting times is also a key requirement.
Figure 2. Mumbai by Nicolas Vigier via Flickr
It’s an age-old scenario: a customer waits 15—30 minutes after a staff member has personally promised them that a table will be available in less time. A threat now looms over the host’s head: The customer will complain, irritably.
Within reason, a customer has two paths in this scenario: they either vent their frustration or leave straight away. Whichever the case, they’ll hurt a restaurant’s overall revenue.
First, a complaint wastes unnecessary time. They’re best avoided. However, despite our best intentions, sometimes a complaint will come our way.
One business newsletter recommends how to deal with delays, that is, long waiting times. Customers usually complain if management ignores them, or a lack of communication occurs. When a customer speaks at length of a torturous wait time, the best thing to do is explain why the restaurant is struggling to find them a table.
All good advice — but costly on both time and money.
Otherwise, if a customer leaves out of frustration, then the effect on your revenue is obvious — there is nobody there to serve.
Figure 3. Cheers! by Gaby via Flickr
The wait at a restaurant is sometimes inevitable; pain, on the other hand, is certainly avoidable.
Joe Johanston, an American restaurateur and keen restaurant-goer, once talked about his most agonising wait experiences to a newspaper. “If I’m alone,” he said, “I will wait about 15 minutes”. Yet if there’s company and a drink available (“to take off the edge”), then he’s willing to wait much longer.
“My longest wait,” he continued, “was for Pizzeria Bianco at 2.5 hours, but we were having a great time [next door] at Bar Bianco playing cards, and we expected a long wait as part of the experience”.
The lesson is clear: let customers roam, entertain, and spend their time enjoying themselves until the wait is over. Then the inevitable restaurant wait isn’t so bad. Indeed, the way Joe talks about it, the wait is just another opportunity to have fun.