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Top five ways counter-service restaurants can improve the guest experience

Counter service restaurants are on the rise, with operators tweaking the format to create new mid market restaurant formats. Both operators and customers see benefits from a counter service module, diners are able to better control the pace of their meal and operators spend less on floor staff, however any new concept faces difficulties, especially when it comes to exceeding the guest experience. To help operators improve the dining experience in these types of restaurants we’ve highlighted five areas where improvements can be made.

1. Table location solution
The type of service often varies in counter restaurants, but many choose to deliver food to customer’s tables when meals are ready. In order to find where customers are seated restaurants use a range of methods, varying from set table numbers to flags and wooden spoons. However, these methods can make it difficult for waiters to find the correct table. Sometimes guests change tables after they have ordered or fail to make the flag visible to serving staff, meaning food is served slower and not at the optimum temperature. A solution being employed by many counter service restaurants is a table location system which uses active RFID technology to track customer locations.  When customers order at the counter they are given a guest tag which relays information back to the kitchen so waiters know exactly where to deliver food. With a table location solution customers don’t need to be on look out for waiters and can relax knowing their food will be promptly delivered.

2. Quality of food
Food is the most important aspect of a restaurant and unfortunately some people have the wrong idea about counter service restaurants, assuming the style implies lower quality food. Using only the freshest ingredients and sourcing locally, when you can, will go a long way to win over these types of diners. Other tools such as back of house technology can also be employed to ensure only the highest quality food leaves the kitchen. The technology works by streamlining kitchen operations and showing chefs exactly what meals need to be cooked and when so they can focus their attention on the quality of the dish.

3. Really think about the décor
Furniture and decorations aren’t usually the first thing on operator’s mind when opening a restaurant but the overall interior of a site plays an integral role in the guest’s experience. Everything from light fittings and wall art to fabric choice and knick knacks set the tone for a restaurant, too many hard plastic chairs make a restaurant feel like a fast food outlet whereas chandeliers give off a fine dining vibe. It’s important to establish appropriate theming based on type of cuisine and the intended atmosphere. For multi-site operators its also important to vary the décor at each location, diners want the same great food at every restaurant, just not the exact same interior design.

4. Queue management
Counter service restaurants can experience queues, both at the counter when ordering and when waiting for a table, so it’s important to have management systems in place to minimise customer dissatisfaction. One way restaurants are eliminating queues is with customer paging solutions which gives diners the opportunity to wait nearby whilst maintaining their position in the queue. On arrival guests are handed a pager, when their table is ready staff easily alert them, using a transmitter, without having to leave their position at the counter. Restaurants should also ensure there is adequate space around the counter in case a queue does form whilst ordering, the last thing you want is a disgruntled customer before they’ve paid!

5. Improve the drinks offering
As the counter service industry becomes more competitive it’s not enough to simply offer guests soft drinks and one or two beer options for a drinks menu. Part of the dining experience is being able to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine with food and having a counter service module shouldn’t minimise the range of drinks offered. Instead limit the number of choices customers are given, for example choose two or three cocktails which are easy for staff to create rather than an entire list – leave that to the cocktail bars! A quality drinks menu not only sets restaurants apart from fast food chains but also from competitors.