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Maintaining service levels over the festive period

Festive trading in hospitality can be fraught with difficulties – it’s likely there will be new staff to manage, more covers needed, different menus to roll out and altered table layouts to navigate – not to mention that all of this sits on top of the inevitably increased footfall.

The more popular a venue becomes, the more operators run the risk of queues forming, creating frustrated customers and threatening the reputation they work so hard to build. Regardless of whether there are advance bookings or not, it can be difficult to handle those periods of unexpected and intensified capacities. Follow these five easy steps to take back control.

1. Welcome desk

If staffing levels mean it’s not possible to have someone permanently front-of-house to welcome diners on arrival, call buttons placed at the entrance ensure that a waiter is alerted as soon as customers are waiting to be seated. This prevents queues building up, reduces customer irritation and frees up front-of-house staff for customer service duties without having to break their flow of work regularly to keep checking there’s nobody waiting.

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2. The cloak of invisibility

If tables are not immediately available, or a group booking isn’t fully assembled, don’t leave customers to get disgruntled by waiting in an obstructive queue at the entrance. Create an invisible queue and give guests their freedom. Paging solutions let diners wait elsewhere until the entire party has arrived or until a table has become free, keeping congestion to a minimum. If it’s possible, why not allow waiting customers to enjoy an aperitif before taking their seats, providing the option to start their visit whilst still in the queue?

Where there’s space, it’s also worth putting some distractions in the waiting area to take people’s minds off how long they’ve been there. Festive music, Christmas decorations or even games that relate to the dining experience are all tools that can help encourage festive cheer whilst working to keep that all-important eye off the clock.

3. Don’t miss out on repeat drinks

With the number of groups enjoying a meal out higher than usual at Christmas, it’s fairly safe to predict that people will want to be fully invested in their once-a-year celebrations. Eliminate the awkwardness of trying to catch a waiter’s attention – mid conversation – simply to get another drink. A call button system meets seamless service expectations, enhances the customer experience and the operator’s bottom line.

4. Two-way radios

When you’re at your busiest, attention to detail and rapid response are essential to maintaining exceptional customer service. During these times, two-way radios come into their own and have a multitude of uses. They connect front and back of house for the slickest of service and ensure that managers, kitchen staff and servers stay in close communication with one another.

All status information, whether it be the number of people waiting, when tables are finishing, who’s chasing orders or issues that require special attention, can be communicated via a two-way, uninterrupted radio frequency.

5. Table management

The time used for turning tables is rewritten during the festive period, as many groups will take more time to catch up, occupying tables for longer than usual. Table management solutions can handle this aspect of trading. Carried by waiters, the handheld devices can update a table management system with current seating availability or alert another member of staff should a table need to be cleared, helping to ensure queuing customers are seated as quickly as possible.

Restaurant operators saw positive sales growth over the festive season in 2018, recording a 2.4% rise in like-for-like sales and are at the heart of many people’s celebrations. Adding a touch of technology and a sprinkling of stardust to the operation will send customers home happy and ready to visit again in 2020.

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