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  • #979189
    Dibs
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    Any suggestions, on how to manage walk in customers and long wait times during busy periods for a cafe that seats 70. part of the problems is it use to operate as a restaurant for 25 yrs, it looks like a restaurant in size , I have reduced the seating by 20, I have had walk in groups of 12 wanting a table. I do not believe they would go to a cafe in Brisbane without booking but becaue I am regional they do not book. On Sundays we can get overwhelmed with customers ( which is great to have customers) , I advertise that bookings are required, and I generally get 50% in bookings but the Walk ins can be the problem as they all come in the usual midday meal time want fast food, I am not a fast food cafe, but I need them financially as weekends are my busiest days, we advise prior to ordering they will be a wait time ( can be 1hr) I staff according to bookings plus a little extra. , I generally carry 6 to 8 staff on sundays and they are good staff , I can not have extra staff in just in case we get a very busy day because of the penalty rates, I am in a remote area so staff can take 3/4hr to get here. Through the week it is a relaxed nicely paced turnover of customers but weekends the walkins can make it manic – if there is a long wait time I serve cheese and crackers to break the wait – I am located on the water at wivenhoe dam the views are spectacular and my booked customers come for the relaxed atmosphere and enjoy the view and it is their destination for the day , I do not double book tables, I dont rush people out. I just get disheartened when you see a bad review due to wait times when the walkin customers are causing the problem by not booking so you can space out the food orders – Am I looking at this wrong, I am learning every day, this is my 2nd year in the industry

    #1112690
    Uncomplicating
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    You advertise that bookings are required. You provide a relaxed atmosphere and you serve food that’s better than the typical cafe stuff. And, most importantly, you tell people that it’s busy, they didn’t book and there may be a wait.

    All spot on.

    If after that the reviews say the food is bad, that’s a problem. If they say the wait times were long, then they’re not.

    MOST people read reviews and take into consideration the time that people were eating and so on. There is always a minority who don’t get it, but you can do without them.

    Important thing is to make sure that when the food gets to the table it’s good. That will make up for the wait time 99% of the time.

    #1112691
    Anonymous
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    Hi Dibs,

    Sounds like you have a very popular venue there :).

    I remember you posting about how close it came to being wiped out in the floods 18 months or so ago, so I’m really pleased to learn that it’s going so well for you.

    I’m wondering why you reduced the seating by 20 when you could obviously fill those seats on some weekends? Could expanding capacity again resolve the problem?

    Apologies if this is a naive question, but I’m not in your industry, so not sure I understand all the ramifications.

    Best of luck to you,
    Jayne

    #1112692
    Uncomplicating
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    FS Concierge, post: 125850 wrote:
    I’m wondering why you reduced the seating by 20 when you could obviously fill those seats on some weekends? Could expanding capacity again resolve the problem?

    Capacity is a tricky subject. If you can seat 95 you need to be able to serve 95. That means more floor staff, more kitchen staff, more mise en place and so on. Expensive when you don’t know whether you’re going to be full or not.

    You also need to look full. Nothing worse for a prospect than looking at a half empty restaurant and wondering why it’s half empty. Better to look 2/3 or 3/4 full.

    Dibs is being very sensible at the moment planning for the 50% bookings and a bit more for walk ins. When the bookings are closer to 80% regularly and still getting walk ins capacity can be increased.

    #1112693
    Anonymous
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    See, I told you I didn’t know much about the industry :)

    Thanks for explaining it Stewart. What you say makes perfect sense.

    Cheers,
    Jayne

    #1112694
    The Copy Chick
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    Are your walk-ins locals, regulars, or people from outside the region who may be visiting or passing through? If they’re in the latter category, it might explain why even advertising the need to book is being ignored.

    If they’re tourists, perhaps you could have some information they could look through while they are waiting about local attractions, or maybe you could stock local produce (jams, honeys, cheese…. whatever is local) and have a small selection of samples they could try to whet their appetite while they wait (not too many though… you don’t want to be filling them up for free!). Not only would it help pass the time, it would also be a great way to promote other local businesses – and maybe they could promote your cafe in their business in some way.

    If the bulk of your walk-ins are locals, then it seems you need to educate further about the need for bookings if they don’t wish to wait. How are you currently advertising this message? You might need to look at other ways of getting the message out there. Make sure it is on your website (assuming you have one), on any online directory listings you have, on your menus, on your door… anywhere and everywhere your customers are likely to find you.

    Otherwise I tend to agree with Uncomplicating in that you seem to be doing everything right.

    All the best!

    #1112695
    Geronimo
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    Hi Dibs,

    Having young kids, being able to plan an evening out is rare, and more often the case that an opportunity arises and my wife and I shoot our for an evening at the last minute. As such, I’m well versed on the other side of the fence as a walk in.

    Our best experiences are with restaurants who explain the situation, and offer for us to come back in 45/60/90 minutes, when they’ll have something available. As a result, we can go for a walk or do something else while we wait, rather than sitting in a chair, and we don’t loose our spot in the queue.

    As people are in the vicinity of your cafe for the day, this shouldn’t be an issue for customers, and may help stretch out your busy lunch period.

    #1112696
    Gavin_S
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    Hi Dibs,

    Just adding my two cents – I am not familiar with where you are located or the set up of your cafe so forgive me if I am off base with this..

    Two ideas that struck me while reading your post are:

    1. First let me mention that I did see that you don’t offer “fast food”, and I understand that – but I also see a potential opportunity. Given that you’re located in a place where people come to spend the entire day, why not offer an additional range of premium quality pre-prepared food to offer to those who do want “fast food”? I am not suggesting deep fried or pre-packaged food, but what about a selection of gourmet baguettes and salads for people who don’t want to wait for a table? That way they can purchase and take away with them to enjoy somewhere else along the waterfront.
    That may ensure you maximise the revenue opportunity from tourists without causing so much disruption to those who have pre-booked a table.

    I have some other suggestions that may assist with the long wait times, but if you’re not looking to turn over tables then they are irrelevant. I’ll mention them anyway:
    1. Given the increase in number on weekends, perhaps you could run with a reduced menu (on weekends) and focus on offering a selection that the kitchen can efficiently prepare and send out.
    2. Introduce a selection of tapas style menu items that your staff can upsell as entrées during busy times. This ensures that people have food coming out early and often. They wont notice the extended wait times for main courses, and you will increase your average cost per cover.

    That’s my two cents. Good luck!

    Gavin

    #1112697
    DavidM
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    Building on what was just said, rather than looking at a reduced menu on weekends, you could instead have a takeaway menu. Trial a few things to gauge demand, ensuring that the items can be turned over relatively quickly, or at least quicker – then when your found your rhythm things should run more smoothly.

    Of course, this takeaway menu only needs to be whipped out during peak periods.

    Good luck

    #1112698
    Uncomplicating
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    Targeting take away seems like such a simple idea and an obvious money spinner, but in general it’s not to be recommended for restaurants and high end cafes.

    The biggest problem is that customers who might otherwise sit and spend $20-30 dollars a head, even more if licensed, instead spend $8-15, yet the staff and food costs are about the same. The chefs may be able to churn out a few more, but for the most part, they cost more to produce. And on top of that, do you really want to pay a qualified chef $60,000 a year to make sandwiches.

    You also run in to issues where customers don’t differentiate between T/A and table service and want a sandwich while sitting down. This is potentially even worse as it can prevent good customers from getting a table while the bogans chomp away on their cheap butty: not something you want the relaxing lunchers to have to tolerate.

    Restaurants and high end cafes need to clearly identify their target market and stick to it. Anything else is a dilution of the core product and will ultimately lessen its value.

    #1112699
    Geronimo
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    Uncomplicating, post: 126143 wrote:
    … while the bogans chomp away on their cheap butty…

    +1 for calling a spade a spade. This gave me a good laugh. :D

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