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3 Tricks To Optimize Your Waitlist For A More Profitable Front Of House

Every hostess knows the stress of managing the waitlist on a busy night. Guests are anxious to be seated, tables have to be arranged for large parties, and communication with staff never seems to go as planned.

Old waitlist systems may have been sufficient in the past, but customers are more speed-oriented than ever, labor costs are continually on the rise, and the competition’s only getting smarter.

To thrive in today’s high-competition and high-cost market, restaurants can’t afford to leave money on the table with an unoptimized front of house—and streamlining your waitlist using these three tricks is a great way to tap into that profit-in-waiting.

1. Digitally Calculate Wait Times And Seating Arrangements

The classic host stand features a dry-erase marker and a laminated seating display. It often seems like a great low-cost way to manage wait times and seat guests—it’s really only a sheet of paper, after all. But when you pitch hostess against a computer, the results are clear.

Busy hosts rarely achieve efficient seating arrangements and accurate wait times compared to digital calculations—and these efficiency bottlenecks can be costly for the restaurant:

  • Unoptimized seating assignments slow table turnover
  • Slow table turnover leads to longer wait times and less accurate estimates
  • Guests become disillusioned when timing expectations aren’t met
  • Fewer happy guests being served leads to less revenue

There’s no contest when it comes to manual versus digital seating and waitlist management.

2. Engage The Diner While They Wait

Bored guests perceive wait times to be far longer than guests who are entertained in some way. Interacting with people while they wait isn’t just a good way to reduce dropouts, it’s also a great way to maximize every moment of guest attention.

Here are some ways you can enhance the waiting experience:

  • Show guests their place in line. Every hostess knows expectation management is the #1 key to happy waiting guests, and allowing them to see their place in line transforms this fact into an automated feature of your waitlist.
  • Let guests pre-order. Restaurants that allow pre-ordering while in line increase table turnover by cutting out the ordering and payment processes.
  • Show off your specials. Waitlist guests are essentially pre-qualified leads, so don’t be afraid to sell to them. Show them what you’re proud of!

We suggest auto-sending a text message to guests when they get on the list that shows them these options.

3. Make It Easy To Cancel A Reservation

No shows throw off good grooves, even in the most efficient restaurants. The table is saved, the hostess is anxiously awaiting their arrival, and waiting guests keep looking over and wondering why that perfectly good six-top is completely empty.

Let’s face it: some guests are inevitably going to end up somewhere else for dinner.

The trick is getting them to tell you.

The ability to foresee dropouts and cancellations increases table turnover and cuts down on wait times—not to mention, it can significantly reduce the stress levels that come with a table unfilled.

The text sent when someone joins the waitlist is the perfect opportunity to tell people that if they want to cancel their reservation or drop out of line, all they have to do is text back and let you know.

Most fronts-of-house are ripe for simple optimizations that increase table turnover, enhance guest experiences, and boost profits. Waitlist management is a fantastic place to start—you’ll see a difference in host stand efficiency overnight. And it’s only the beginning.

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