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Have your cake when they eat it, too

Turn tables or sell desserts?  It is more profitable to turn tables, right?  Wrong. Try on this point of view and see if you can't improve profits at your restaurant.

Point of View #1
Turn Tables!

Table turns seem important during a busy shift. Seat 'em, feed 'em and send 'em on their way, freeing up the table for another go 'round. This belief usually stems from those times when you're the busiest — peak periods when your restaurant has a waiting list. Operators tend to go into hyper-speed and we train our staff to do the same.

Point of View #2
Sell Desserts!

Desserts are a separate, indulgent and adventurous dining experience for guests. They are a celebratory close to a dining experience, ending it on a "sweet note." As add-on, incremental sales, desserts are great money-makers and tip boosters. And guests who order dessert are 30% more likely to order after-meal beverages, like decaffeinated cappuccino, coffee and tea, which are nice gross profit contributors.

The Conflict
How do I turn tables while I encourage guests to linger over coffee and dessert?

You don't. Turn tables that is. Here's why:

Those busy times that create an urgency to turn tables are not the norm. Most restaurants are only at peak capacity about 10% of the time — usually Friday & Saturday nights and Thursday & Friday lunch.

Servers adopt the attitude that tips will be greater through faster table turn... not by providing better service or building check averages. This focus on table turn inevitably leads to poorer service overall. It's also a lost opportunity to sell those high profit drinks and desserts. The server loses and so do you… not to mention the customer.

So, what about the wait during those busy times? Don't worry... they'll keep waiting. Focus on keeping your existing guests happy, come up with some ideas to ease the wait, and give your guests the dining experience they came for. When this becomes your focus, you'll see it's possible to have your cake and eat it, too.

We've provided some suggestions for easing the wait, and some ways to accommodate both desserts and table turns.

See also:
Small plates, big impact
How sweet it is
The power of sampling

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