how to reduce waiting time in restaurants
by Laura-Andreea Voicu

Are people complaining about the long lines at your restaurant or how long it takes for the food to arrive? Then you need to act fast before you lose customers and sales.

Here’s how to reduce waiting time in restaurants and why you should:

How Does Waiting Time Affect Customer Satisfaction?

Nobody likes waiting. Whether that is in line at the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, or in a restaurant, waiting is frustrating and can make us give up on a business for good.

According to a study by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, wait times are one of the main drivers of customer satisfaction. Customers who have to wait for a longer time than expected are 18% less satisfied.

And this is an experience they take with them after they leave the business. They will probably also tell their friends and family about it, if not the world in the form of a negative online review.

Ultimately, a long waiting time in the restaurant will impact not only the guest experience but also your profitability. You might lose customers on the spot or deter them from coming back to your restaurant.

That is why learning how to reduce waiting time in restaurants is crucial for the longevity of your business.

What Is the Average Restaurant Wait Time?

The average waiting time at a restaurant depends a lot on the type of service you provide. While in a fast-food restaurant, the average wait time is about 5 minutes, in a casual or fine-dining restaurant, you can expect a wait time of 20 minutes or more.

To avoid customers waiting in line for too long and learn how to keep waiting customers happy, check out the tips below.

How to Reduce Waiting Time in Restaurants: 7 Practical Tips

Enable table reservations on your website

One of the main reasons why customers wait a long time to be seated is that they don’t have or don’t know they have the option to reserve a table.

Add a Table Reservation button at the top of your website to ensure it’s instantly visible and that customers can book a table in seconds.

how to reduce customer waiting time in a restaurant

Make sure everybody knows they can say goodbye to waiting in line by reserving a table for their quick lunch break, dinner with friends, or a special event. Post about it on social media to remind customers they have that option.

Start accepting table reservations in minutes Add a free Table Reservation button to your website

Allow customers to pre-order their food when making a reservation

Another strategy that can lower wait times at restaurants is enabling food pre-orders for table reservations. That way, the food will be ready for the customers when they arrive.

how to manage customer waiting time in restaurants: enable food pre-orders for table reservations

This will increase table turnover and help you serve more customers every day because parties will be in and out of the restaurant faster.

Encourage people to order their food in advance by offering exclusive discounts for pre-orders:

how to reduce waiting time in restaurants: encourage people to pre-order their food with a discount for ordering ahead

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial for creating irresistible restaurant promotions like the one above and many others:

Train staff to run like a well-oiled machine

How much customers have to wait in your restaurant also heavily depends on how efficient your staff is and how well they work together.

If everyone knows exactly what they have to do and when things will run much smoother. Collaboration between front-of-house and back-of-house staff is crucial.

If the food is ready in the kitchen but the server hasn’t received that information, customers might have to wait around until the dish gets cold and their patience wears thin.

Enable QR code ordering at the table

In restaurants, a lot of time tends to be lost going back and forth from the server stations to the tables to bring the menus, take down the orders, bring the check, take back the check, and so on.

Fortunately, you can eliminate this friction by switching from traditional paper menus to a QR code menu with dine-in ordering capabilities.

Reduce waiting time by allowing customers to order and pay for their food at the table Implement a QR code menu for free

That way, customers can take matters into their own hands and order their food by scanning the code on the table. They can also pay online when they order so they don’t have to wait around once they’re done eating.

reduce customer wait times by implementing a QR code menu

Would you like to enable QR code ordering at your restaurant for free? Check out this simple video tutorial:

Offer takeaway options

One of the reasons why you may be struggling with long waiting times is limited seating. The good news is that you don’t have to rely solely on dine-in to make it in the restaurant business.

You can also enable food delivery and pickup and serve more customers than you could in the restaurant.

Free online ordering system for pickup and delivery Unlock a new revenue stream and serve more customers daily

If clients know they can also order your delicious food at home, they won’t always have to come to the restaurant, leaving room for others to visit without having to wait for hours to get a table.

It’s good to have separate staff in charge of online orders so you don’t overwhelm them or realize they’ve been neglecting a dine-in customer because they were too busy preparing a delivery package.

How to handle a long line of customers

If you’re wondering how to manage waiting lines without having people walk out, invest in distractions that can keep customers entertained while they wait, such as a TV or an arcade game.

An incentive such as a drink on the house, a free appetizer, or a menu taste test might also convince them to wait a bit more until their table is ready.

Consider investing in a bar area where customers can wait for their table while sipping on a drink. It will do wonders for your customer service and sales alike!

How to apologize to a customer for a long wait time

Sometimes, no matter what you do, customers will have to wait a bit longer than normal for a table. In that situation, you need to learn how to apologize for a long wait time.

From a simple and sincere “I am sorry for the long wait” to a free dessert, a discount on the total check value, or a coupon code for a future order, the effort won’t go unnoticed and it might just bring you a new regular.

Final Thoughts

There you have it: how to reduce waiting time in restaurants without sacrificing the customer experience or breaking the bank.

With dedicated training, a knack for customer service, and free tools like a table reservation software and a QR code menu, you too can say goodbye to long lines and disgruntled guests.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Laura-Andreea Voicu
Laura-Andreea Voicu

Laura-Andreea Voicu is an experienced content writer with a knack for marketing and SEO. She creates guides and resources designed to help restaurants grow their presence online and boost sales.

She has been featured on the Oracle Food and Beverage Blog and wrote for Search Engine Journal, Clutch, Sender, Venngage, Quickbooks, and many more.

Find me on LinkedIn.