With restaurants having been closed for much of 2020, we’re starting to see restrictions loosen just as peak trading season begins with summer now here. Do you know what that means? It’s going to get busy. Seriously busy.

This is both a blessing and a curse. Dealing with an influx of hungry new customers who are desperate to come in and sample the delights emerging from your kitchen will give your business the boost it needs. Yes, capacity may not be at 100%, but considering dining rooms were closed for much of the year, it’s still a significant uptick.

But how do you handle this sudden rush of clientele without your team reaching breaking point and customers being left disappointed?

Follow these steps. They’ll work for both regular dine-in guests, and delivery customers if that’s a strategy you’ve employed recently.

Ensure you streamline bookings

If you’re expecting a sudden influx of diners and don’t usually take reservations, now might be the time to switch that approach.

Smaller restaurants in particular often shy away from taking bookings, because they don’t want to neglect walk-ins, but if a bumper week of business is expected, a streamlined reservation process will help you manage demand.

You can do this by:

– accepting bookings (it’ll be the best decision you make if you’re almost guaranteed to be busy);
– use a booking system (direct is best on your own website, but don’t shy away from the big booking sites, either – just take into account their commission); and
– make sure you take credit card details (securely) to deal with no-shows.

Be honest with your diners

One sure-fire way to upset diners during a busy period is to over promise.

If you currently have an hour-long wait for food, tell them so. If a particular signature dish is selling out quickly, highlight the fact. If your waiting staff are sharing table duties, explain to diners that they probably won’t be dealing with just one server.

The more honest you are, the less likely you are to have unhappy diners. Extend your estimations for wait times, too, because that’ll help you beat expectations.

Give diners something to do

If wait times have increased beyond what you’re normally comfortable with and you’ve been honest with diners about the fact, make sure you keep them occupied.

If they have kids, that means some form of colouring book or table-based game. But you can keep adults occupied too with complimentary drinks or nibbles.

If waiting times have really rocketed, have a list of things on hand that diners can do locally while they wait. A local attraction, shopping mall or something else of interest in the neighbourhood will demonstrate your local knowledge and ensure they don’t decide to disappear, never to return again.

Don’t overstretch your team

There’s such a thing as a restaurant that’s too busy.

As tempting as it might be to keep welcoming bookings and walk-ins, you’ll quickly overstretch your team.

The result? Wait times that go beyond acceptable and a team that reaches breaking point. This never results in anything but a poor customer experience, and they’ll soon let you know about it on review sites.

Before a forecasted busy period, make sure you set a ceiling for the number of covers the restaurant can adequately handle at any one time. And don’t waver from it.

Wrapping up

As with everything in the restaurant industry, prior planning is vital.

Your doors may not be open now, but when they eventually swing back into action, the homework performed on the advice above will ensure your team is ready to make the most of the boom.


H&L POS – working with you to help you grow your business
H&L POS has been delivering POS solutions with extensive back of house and staff management systems to the hospitality industry for more than 30 years. As hospitality people at heart, H&L understand the critical requirements for each food and beverage operation. We have staff in every state of Australia providing direction and advice as you grow and as technology changes.
Call us at 1800 778 340, email [email protected] or fill in the form below to discuss your venue’s needs.