improve speed of service

Improve restaurant speed of service with these 6 must-know tips


Improving your restaurants' speed of service is top of mind for every restaurant operator. But with limited time in your day, figuring out the best - and most efficient - ways to improve can be daunting. Follow the techniques below to help improve your speed of service and better your bottom line.

1: Focus on accurate forecasting

Accurate forecasting should be the starting point for achieving your restaurant's speed of service goals. Accurate forecasting affects your scheduling, deployment, food ordering, and preparation. Over and under forecasting will negatively affect your speed of service.

An actual sales-to-forecast variance of 5% to 7% daily, for an order cycle, and for a business week is the starting point for your success. To calculate, divide your sales variance by the forecasted sales and focus on 5% to 7%.

Example: Forecasted Sales = $6,000 

Actual Sales = $6,400 

Variance = $400 (6.67%) 

A $400 variance spread over the extended hours of operation makes for more effective scheduling to meet the needs of your team and by extension, your guests.

Read our Restaurant Speed of Service Playbook


2. Prioritize training

When new and inexperienced cashiers make errors, it slows down your line production, increases speed of service and food waste, and frustrates your line personnel.

Set new cashiers and your team up for success with robust training that includes:

  1. Practice on the POS system
  2. Role playing guest scenarios and an overview of menu items
  3. Time in position with an experienced cashier or crew trainer

This allows cashiers to become comfortable with your restaurants’ systems and processes, and will make them better at anticipating guests’ needs and ringing the orders up correctly, quickly, and with a smile on their face.


3. Schedule the right people for the right roles

From your accurate sales forecast and weekly employee schedule, make sure you put your top performers in the right positions. This begins with the schedule writing process. Do this by putting the very best people available in their best roles, and making sure you have enough staff at the right time.

Missing your forecast on a regular basis will prompt changes in scheduling and deployment. Accurate forecasting sets your team up to execute the “plan” the way it was intended. This can be challenging enough without making adjustments and cuts to the schedule to reduce labor cost that was wasted or lost elsewhere.

4. Double check your equipment

Yes, equipment can improve your speed of service. Make sure the line equipment used to hold and prepare food is in good repair, and that you have a system in place to make needed repairs immediately. Having broken equipment can slow down service.

For drive thru locations, ensure your team has enough working head-sets and that the proper team members are wearing them. (I recommend having the drive thru order taker, cashier, manager-in-charge, and key line personnel use headsets).

Also, above store leaders should build into their routine to be on a head-set during store visits to monitor the quality of the transactions and guest interactions. Having the right people wearing working headsets can make sure orders are more accurate.

5. Be ready for revenue

When your team is ready for a rush of guests, they can focus on providing quality food quickly and not worry about the time-intensive details that could slow down service.

Here are some simple ways to prepare for a rush of guests:

  1. Make sure the production line is stocked with food and paper items necessary to complete the day part sales
  2. Check to see that registers are loaded with change and are deployed
  3. Complete food prep, wash and put away dishes, and clean and stock the dining room and restrooms

Also, make sure everyone is in their assigned position during peak -and especially non-peak - times. Years ago, my team adopted the phrase – “every guest is a rush” – and we found being ready for revenue all the time was the foundation to our success.

6. Set clear goals – and communicate them

During a recent store visit, I asked five team members what the speed of service goal was for dinner and promptly got five different answers. In order to run an efficient operation, your team needs to know – and follow – set speed of service goals.

Keep your team focused with clear and concise goals for each daypart. One way to do this is to designate a “speed of service captain” who works with the manager-in-charge to keep the team informed and to challenge them to improve your speed of service.

Also, don’t forget to share the speed of service outcomes. Can you imagine going through school, at any level, and doing the work, without getting any feedback, seeing the results, or receiving a grade? Of course not. By sharing results with your team, you’re showing them how their performance matters – and that they’re being watched.


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