If you’re working in the restaurant industry, you’ve probably considered a counter service restaurant model at some point.
Whether you’ve faced staff shortages on a busy Saturday night or queues of mid-week customers waiting for a table at lunchtime, moving to a counter service model can be a great way to make your business more efficient and profitable.
However, it’s crucial to remember that the counter service model only suits certain types of restaurants. Businesses that adopt this model often find that it comes at the cost of food quality and customer experience.
Here, we’ll explain what a counter service model is and discuss some hidden considerations that come with using one, so you’ll understand what it means for your business and how to implement it successfully.
What is a Counter Service Restaurant Model?
Counter service restaurants see customers place their orders at the till or order point rather than sitting down for table service. A customer will usually read a menu at their table, then go up to the order point, place their order, and pay.
Food will be either delivered to their table through a table number service or handed to them at the order point.
This model of running a restaurant has numerous benefits. As people spend less time at the table waiting for their food, it can increase table turnover. This will allow you to get more people into your restaurant, boosting profit margins.
Counter service also means that you rely less on servers. Rather than requiring a team of waiters to cover all tables, you only need a few staff members to operate the order point and food runners to serve food and clear tables. This means you can cut your operating costs.
5 Things You Need to Know About the Counter Service Restaurant Model
Using a counter service model in your restaurant might seem like the secret to lower costs and higher profits.
However, there are some hidden aspects that, as a restaurant owner, you might overlook when considering such a model. These can significantly impact the overall success of your business in the long term, so it’s essential to understand and find ways to mitigate them.
1. Effect on food quality
Think about the last time you had a fine-dining experience. It’s almost unimaginable that it would have been at a restaurant using a counter service model.
While nothing intrinsic to the counter service model means you can’t use it alongside a high-quality kitchen, many customers associate the model with lower-quality food.
If you’re using a counter service model to speed up your restaurant’s service, your chefs will have to deal with a higher volume of orders over a short time. This could lead to a decrease in food quality if you’re not careful.
You can compromise and provide a smaller menu with dishes that you cook to perfection. Finding the balance between service efficiency and food quality is a challenge for all restaurants, especially the counter service model.
2. Customer comfort
There’s no doubt that there are some situations when a counter service can be convenient for a customer. You might be rushing home and need somewhere to quickly grab a bite. However, a lot of customers expect the restaurant experience to be more engaging than this.
Waiter service is a classic way of making customers feel at ease in your restaurant. They won’t have to worry about remembering their whole table’s orders when they go up to the kiosk.
Plus, they can easily ask for assistance, whether they have questions about food allergens in menu items or want to personalize dishes.
An easy way to solve this is to implement a QR code menu. Customers can scan it, browse the menu at their leisure, place their order, and pay for it, without coming to the counter. Then, they can just wait at the table for the food to be delivered.
Using the QR code menu generator from GloriaFood also allows you to personalize your online menu with food allergen information, nutritional values, and many types of choices and add-ons.
Watch the tutorial below to learn how to generate a QR code menu for your counter service restaurant for free.
3. Food prices compared to fast food
As we’ve said, there are some situations when the speed of a counter service model can be really useful for customers. However, the fact of the matter is that many people will simply opt for a fast food chain.
While you might be able to start competing with fast-food restaurants when you adopt a counter service model, they’ll always be able to beat you on price.
This means that – unless you’re able to offer a far greater quality of food – most customers will choose fast-food restaurants instead.
Here are some menu pricing strategies to consider when pricing your menu items.
4. Customer engagement
Your best experiences as a client doubtlessly depend upon your connection with people at the businesses you frequent, whether you’re calling a business phone or going to a restaurant.
The same is true for your restaurant’s customers. Using a counter service model will mean that customers aren’t able to interact with your team as much.
Luckily, you can still interact with your customers online. Be active on social media and review platforms to show customers that even if they can’t interact with you directly, you care about providing great customer service.
5. Challenges with staff satisfaction
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to consider how switching to a counter service restaurant model might affect your employees. To see the benefits of a counter service in terms of costs, you’ll have to limit staff. That means you need exactly the right people for the job.
Invest in human resources software to help you recruit highly experienced servers or manage training for existing employees to ensure they can quickly and efficiently respond to customers’ queries.
The staff that you end up hiring should also be satisfied with their job if they’re going to stick around. Offer quality employee benefits, adopt a recruitment CRM to nurture candidate relationships, and ensure plenty of learning and development opportunities.
The benefits of a counter service restaurant model are obvious. Operating a restaurant where customers place their orders at a counter rather than through table service can be a quick and easy way to speed up service and boost your turnover.
However, you must consider the aspects above, as these can have long-term consequences for your restaurant business.
This article is a guest post.