Improving Dining Room Throughput: It’s Tables, Not Seats!

You will run out of tables before you ever run out of seats…guaranteed!

In the foodservice industry, we focus on seat count as a means of expressing a restaurant’s dining capacity.  Architects do it, the fire department does, designers do it, the plumbing code does.  However, dining room sales capacity is primarily driven by table count.  A host seats a party when a table becomes available.  It doesn’t matter how many seats are unoccupied.  The irony, however, is that it is the guest that spends the money, and they need a seat to sit in.  So, how do we increase the number of seats with guests in them?  Or, put another way, how do we improve the Sales per Seat metric?

The answer…increase the number of tables!

In our consulting business, we study dining room utilization.  We find that seat utilization is always lower than table utilization, often by a wide margin.  Typically, in a dining room at “full” capacity, we will see table utilization average ~90%, while seat utilization averages 50-60%.

Most concepts have a very real opportunity to increase sales capacity by increasing table count.  The trick is to do so while retaining the flexibility to seat a variety of party sizes.  The dining rooms with the highest seat utilization are those that could be described as communal.  (Think cafeterias and coffee shops.)  But, if communal seating is not brand-right, then the next best strategy is to align the table size mix to the party size mix.  Incorporate a flexible seating strategy to accommodate the natural variation in party sizes by day of week and daypart, and you will be on your way to increasing Sales per Seat.  You may also want to consider table management technology to help better match parties to the right table.

The consultants at The Productivity Advantage can help you to quantify the impact potential, determine the ideal mix of table sizes for your concept, and even develop an alternative seating layout.  Through our alliance partners, we can offer a turn-key remodel solution for concepts ranging from one to 1,000 locations.

Of course, the kitchen will need to keep up with all that additional demand.  But that is a good problem to have…and one that can also be solved.

I’ll place a friendly wager with you.  The next time you eat out at a restaurant that is on a wait, survey the dining room.  Do you see any empty tables?  Chances are you might see one or two tables waiting to be bussed or turned; but not for long.   Do you see any empty seats?  If you don’t, please call me because I want to know the name of the concept, and see for myself!  And, I’ll owe you one…  (And, by the way, cruise ships don’t count.)

For more information on how you can improve the dining room capacity at your concept, please contact the experts at The Productivity Advantage.

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Filed under How To, Observations

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