Q&A with Al Black, H&L’s WA Business Development Manager

Al Black is H&L’s Account Manager in Western Australia. He has worked in hospitality and tourism for over 20 years, on marketing strategies to help venues build their traffic and clientele.

In this Q&A, we discuss why waiting on tables is potentially more profitable than a counter-based service.

What has been behind the trend of providing a counter-based service instead of staff to wait on tables?

“It has been mainly the perceived benefit of costsavings on staff wages. I say “perceived” because there is another perspective to this. There are essentially four stages to serving customers:

  1. Taking the order
  2. Delivering the product
  3. Clearing the table in time for your next customer
  4. Getting paid for the meal

Even with counter-based service, you still need to do 50% of the above – delivering the product and clearing the table. For this reason, you may as well do the other 50% and capitalise on the contact you have with your customer. I believe the benefits of waiting on tables may outweighthe benefits of a counter-based service, but this does depend on the type of venue.

The other reasons restaurants have adopted a counter-based service are:

  • Getting payment on the spot and minimising lost revenue from people leaving without paying
  • Faster turnaround of service because people in a queue at the counter will more likely know what they want and order quickly, as opposed to waiting on tables where people want to have a discussion about their food.” 

What are the benefits to a restaurant of waiting on tables?

“There are many. Restaurants that have table service have the opportunity to develop their business and create a more niche service to a market who know what they want. Here are benefits I have seen across my customer base.

Making your menus work for you

You have put thought and consideration into your menus based on what you know about your clientele and current food trends. There are dishes that complement each other, but your customers will only know that if you are there to guide them.

By having the conversation with customers about how hungry they are, what they like and don’t like, and what their diet preferences are, you can make recommendations and upsell with side dishes and drinks.

You will need to ensure your staff have the confidence and understanding of the menus to be able to do this. The effort will be worth it because it develops your staff to create better ambience in your restaurant, therefore increasing revenue per table.”

Customers feel looked after and cared for

“Your customers enjoy having someone attend their table, ask if they want another drink, pour another glass of wine, see if any more food is needed. Service makes a big difference, people are more likely to recommend your restaurant andyou may not be able to offer a great service if you don’t wait on tables.”

Getting to know your clientele means you can give them what they want

“By understanding your market better, you can develop menus that will give them what they want and appeal to their preferences. But you cannot know this unless you are a little more up close and personal at the table, discussing food and getting feedback.

Then you will also understand how to market more effectively to your customers with offers that appeal to them.”

Developing your staff and their talents as assets to your business

“You may have the best hospitality personnel working in your restaurant but because they are behind a counter, these assets that will bring more customers back and result in higher value orders, will not be realised.”

Easier to differentiate yourself compared to other restaurants

“Your service, menu diversity and staff attentiveness will give you a way to differentiate yourself far easier. You have several touch points with the customer and can influence their experience at your venue much more directly. So many venues these days have good menus with excellent variety, but do not capitalise on this because the staff don’t get the opportunity to discuss options with customers.

If you are developing a longer term business with a distinct reputation and service standard, you can’t do this with a counter-based approach because you never get intimate with your customers this way.

When you do wait on tables, you are capturing more of the market who want to be waitedon and are prepared to pay for this service. Most of us want a personal experience, not the “do you want fries with that” model.

These days we look for that little difference that makes us want to go back to a restaurant, something that makes us connect a little more with the place. A counter-based approach takes away from this connection.”

How much revenue do you think is left behind because tables are not waited?

“I believe some restaurants might leave at least 15-20% in revenue on the table by not waiting on them.”

How has H&L made it easy for restaurants to make waiting on tables efficient with quick turnaround?

When H&L’s Sysnet is used in conjunction with BookBook, it provides efficiencies for restaurants that they may not realise.

  • Any staff member can see exactly what tables are booked at any point in time, even if the booking has just been made. This will eliminate double bookings.
  • Venues can automatically take a deposit for a larger group to secure an online booking.
  • A countdown timer can be set up for bookings so that not only can you see all the tables in your restaurant and what is booked, but you can also see how long each party has been at their table. So if a new group comes in wanting a table, you have information to help accommodate them instead of turning them away.
  • Our technology offers a colour coded system which changes as the order progresses. For example, it will change colour when the customer is sitting at the table, ordering, first, second and third courses etc etc. This is through a visual display so one glance gives you the information you need.

Also, where it may have taken staff a few visits back and forth to the bar and the kitchen to discuss a meal, work out drinks or place an unusual request, this can now be done at the table, by making the ordering process at the table as efficient as it can be. For example:

“H&L’s technology has taken many of the benefits of a counter-based service approach and put these in hands of staff at the table.

  • You can change the course type with a single button, if someone wants an entrée to come out with the mains, this is easy to do with one click.
  • You can do multiple orders at the same time. For example you can send off a drinks order while you are still doing a food order if that is what your customer wants. So you are working better with your clientele, their needs and their mood.
  • Modifiers will allow you to make adjustments to dishes, for example, adding a steak well done or rare, and other options such as adding sauces.
  • You can take payment at the table including split payments, see below.”

Ease of Payments

“Our systems handle all the different ways people want to pay these days.

  • Split billing – we have excellent split bills management, you can easily pay by item or dollar amount or a combination of both.
  • Split payments – we can manage payments that are any combination of cash and card
  • Tyro integration – Tyro is a merchant payment system which specialises in hospitality with a “pay at table” device. Your staff have a hand held device to take all the payments at the table with split bills as needed. There is no need for the staff or your customer to leave the table at all.

Our technology provides a seamless experience for your clientele, staff and your venue overall.”

Call H&L today to discuss how you can improve your table service

Don’t start heading down the counter-based service approach when you don’t have to. Call H&L today on 1800 778 340 to discuss how our technology will help your venue be efficient with table service, providing a seamless experience for you, your staff and your clientele.