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An important part of making a profit in a restaurant is maximising table turnover rate. The faster you can get diners in and out of your business, the more money you stand to make at the end of the day. However, mastering table turnover is a tricky business. You want your diners to have a comfortable experience so that they will come back once again but you also want to serve as many parties as possible. You’ll need to walk this fine line in order to ensure that your restaurant comes out on top.

So how do you maximize table turnover without appearing inhospitable? Simple, follow our 4 top table turnover tips below. From the psychological to the simple, we discuss several strategies you can start employing immediately.

Bear in mind the differences between casual and fine dining restaurants. Generally, fine dining establishments will keep their guests for longer times as several courses will be served. Patrons pay for a luxury experience, meaning your servers will be much busier keeping these guests happy. Casual establishments, on the other hand, aim to turn each table three times throughout dinner service or one every hour and a half. This may seem easy to achieve, but if you’re dealing with pesky ‘campers’, you stand to lose a lot of profit. Most of the tips we share are more suited to casual dining experiences, however, you can modify them for fine dining use as well.

Group of diners with a server.

1 – Subliminal Strategies

Studies have shown that there are several psychological factors that affect how fast people eat and you can employ these strategies to maximise your table turnover. Consider using the following tricks to influence your diners eating speed.

  • Rearrange your restaurant. Place your tables away from corners and walls and try to seat as many guests in the middle of the dining area as possible. Seeing as the middle of the room is often the busiest spot in the restaurant, it will influence guests to eat faster. Avoid using seating that is anchored to the floor like booths because it has been found that people tend to linger longer on these types of seating.
  • Switch up colour schemes. It has been proven that bright colours like red, yellow and orange raise an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure and this stimulus also subconsciously encourages you to eat faster. In other words, bring bright and vibrant colours to your dining space and crockery to maximise table turnover.
  • Music makes the people eat faster. It’s a little known fact that louder music with a more upbeat rhythm excites people and encourages them to eat faster.
A red Asian themed restaurant.

2 – Organise Your Seating System

If you haven’t done this already, make sure you have an organized seating and reservation system. To do this, you will need to perfect communication between your waiters and hosts. A well-running system will have the waiter signal the runner to clear tables as soon as they pick up the bill and the host that their table will be opening shortly. This allows the host to seat customers almost immediately. If your host can get customers to their table sooner, you stand to improve your table turnover rate. The following tips also help to organise your seating system:

  • Pre-assign tables to guests waiting in line so that guests can be seated as soon as they open up.
  • Keep your waiting area close to the host’s stand so that he/she can easily find customers waiting in line when their tables open.
  • Reconsider your reservation policy. If you only accept walk-ins, you never have to deal with groups that don’t show up.
Organised seating plan in a restaurant.

3 – Don’t Wait On Waiters

Nothing aggravates diners more than having to wait on waiters. If your waiters don’t arrive at their tables immediately, they are adding to that table’s occupancy, slowing down your table turnover. For this reason, you must keep your serving staff on schedule by following the tips below:

  • Ensure servers arrive at their tables within minutes of seating guests.
  • The first question your waiters need to ask is “what brings you in today?” This allows them to tailor their service to the needs of the guests, expediting service.
  • Waiters must take drink orders immediately and bring out water as soon as possible.
  • If it’s a large group, consider assigning multiple servers and runners to the table to hasten service.
  • Runners shouldn’t wait for the guests to leave before clearing the table, rather they should begin the process as soon as guests finish their meals.
  • Prepare cutlery in advance so that tables can be reset quickly after service.
  • Waiters can place the check on the table before guests have asked for it to subtly signal them to leave. This can easily appear as rude, so time it wisely.
  • If you are dealing with “campers” who are still at their tables after paying, you can politely explain to them you have reservations waiting and ask them to continue their conversation at the bar.
Happy couple and a waiter.

4 – Keep it Short And Sweet

Many people still believe that a larger menu leads to more customer satisfaction because it gives your guests more options and allows them to make decisions easier; however, the converse is true. Guests actually experience a subtle form of anxiety when overloaded with choices, slowing down their decision making. It’s better to opt for a smaller menu, focusing on your best and most popular options so that guests can make faster decisions allowing you to turn their table faster. You will also avoid possible waste and save money by trimming your menu to only include your most popular meals.

A short restaurant menu.

Maximising table turnover is a balancing act. There are several strategies you can employ to get diners service quicker and eating faster, however, there is a chance that these tricks can backfire and leave your guests feeling unappreciated and unwelcome. The key lies in practice and experimentation. Use our top tips as a guiding principle and modify them to meet the needs of your restaurant. This way, you’ll not only maximise turnover but you’ll also be maximising profit.

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