Speed Up Table Turnover, Increase Profits

Perfecting table turnover is a balancing act. Do it right, and you’ll be serving more customers daily which equates to more revenue. But at the same time, you can’t be shooing customers who are lingering at their table out the door.

The trick to turning tables efficiently is eliminating as much wasted time as possible. Here are some tips on how to keep your customers moving.  

Train Servers to Greet Parties Right Away

Your servers should be ready to greet their assigned table within a minute of the dining party sitting down. This way they can get the ball rolling on distributing water and taking drink orders.

Servers should also ask diners if it’s their first time eating in your restaurant. If they’ve been there before, there’s no need to run through recommendations unless they ask. Printing a list of the current specials and displaying it on the tables for guests to review before the server arrives eliminates the need to verbally describe them.

Streamline Your Menu

You may think that an extensive menu is the key to driving revenue, but a gargantuan list of choices can be overwhelming and confusing to diners. Make it easier for them to decide right away by paring it back and focusing on the dishes you do best.

If a diner is undecided between two dishes, it doesn’t hurt to recommend the one that is faster for the kitchen to prepare.

Prepare Table Basics Ahead of Time

Having a steady supply of cutlery rolled in napkins ready to be dispersed and pitchers filled with ice water before guests come through the door will save your servers time over the course of a shift. It may not seem like a big deal to prepare these items when a party sits down, but having them ready shaves minutes off of each party.

Another tip is to train servers to remove finished plates right away instead of waiting for everyone at the table to finish. This helps keep the process moving along.

Know When to Bring the Check

Dropping the check off at the table can send the hint that you need the space for another dining party, but it must be tactfully done. A server should check with the diners first in case they want dessert or coffee. If they decline, it’s acceptable to bring the check. Have the server settle their receipts right away. Clearing the table also gently drops the hint that it’s nearly time for the customers to leave.

Invite Campers to Relax in the Bar

If several hints have been dropped and the check has been paid, you can politely invite the dining party to continue their conversation in the bar or lounge area if your restaurant has one and offer them a free drink. Being honest and explaining that another party needs the table often encourages people to move along.

Rethink Your Reservation Policy

You may want your restaurant to decline taking reservations during high traffic times to allow you to seat walk-ins faster and focus on first-come/first-served seating. This way if a reserved party is late or a no-show, you won’t be wondering if you can give the table to other guests.

Test FOH Technology

Integrating cloud-based front-of-house software can help your staff plan seating arrangements, manage waiting parties, and communicate with each other to see how quickly tables are moving. You may also want to implement an app that allows diners to pre-order food before they are seated; this feature can definitely speed up the amount of time they stay in your restaurant.


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