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At the most basic level, a restaurant is comprised of sales, products, and timing.
You want to facilitate the sales of your product, by empowering your staff with product knowledge, and giving servers enough time with their tables to increase the sale (this is accomplished through efficient work flow, and distributing tables).
For your products, you want to offer food you genuinely enjoy. It’s easy to sell what you’re passionate about. It must also be something you’re able to create well at volume.
Holistically, timing determines whether or not you'll be successful.
UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT
OF RESTAURANT DESIGN
RESTAURANT DESIGN AFFECTS TIMING, AND IN A RESTAURANT, TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
Your ability to deliver products in a timely manner is one of the most fundamental elements to service. Inefficient design greatly slows down product delivery, and worse, it also lessens your staff's time to sell (which is directly related to the time they can spend at tables, which is also a huge factor in the ability to be attentive.)
(OR ESSENTIALLY, YOUR RESTAURANT'S DESIGN)
DETERMINES QUALITY OF EXPERIENCE
Anyone who’s worked in restaurants knows that it doesn’t matter how good the cocktails are, if they arrive after the appetizers done. Or if the entrees arrive over an hour after they’re ordered. Or if the appetizer arrives after the entrees. Timing is everything in restaurants, and it determines the quality of experience as much (if not more) than the products themselves.
It's easiest to show you how design impacts your product delivery, by demonstrating the difficulties stemming from poor design.
So how do you control timing? You make product delivery as efficient as possible. How do you control over-all experience?
YOU HAVE TO DESIGN IT RIGHT.
Lets look at how poor design affects efficiency.
Does any inefficiency stand out to you right away??
This particular restaurant has an L shape, and you can see the bar well at the top. This bar also has a long table in center, so essentially three rows of bar stools, and then booths on its outer edge.
A small staircase (3 stairs) leads down to a lower level dining room.
The dining room has two long banquets on each side, and 4 rows of tables in its center.
For the sake of this demonstration, our sample section is labeled tables 1 - 6.
Lastly, the kitchen begins (not fully included in photo, just its front) on the opposite side of the restaurant.
It's harder understanding the real life implications from an illustration, but let's start breaking this down.
The bar well being in an opposite corner from the kitchen (and the furthest point from the dining room) dictates that consolidation of trips (grabbing drinks and food) can never happen. It also means that even checking on a table's drink order has specific time delays.
Also, try to imagine people in this space. What do people do at tables? They spread out. That means, that walking in between tables (or bar stools) gets very difficult. Imagine the bar filled with people in the stools and standing in the open space between.
Take a look at the restaurant layout again. Imagine a busy evening, with a full bar, and try to connect with the server's journey described below. You want to do this, because this is the delivery of your products to the table. This is the factor determining your staff's ability to sell (and upsell), as well as your guests determination of their overall experience.
Table 1 gets sat someone waiting on their date. They're greeted, drink order obtained, and the server walks the 25 feet to put that order in the computer.
Then Table 3 gets sat, and your server walks back to greet them, gets the drink order, walks the 25 feet to the computer again, and then walks the 25 feet to the stairs, and then up 30 feet through the bar. Remember that the bar is filled with people, so this last 30 feet is a struggle. Now finally your server is back at the barwell to get drinks for table 1, and table 3. Neither table's drink is ready, and your server has to decide how much time they can wait, versus the time it'll take to make another trip. The bartender is busy, and takes another 2 minutes to put up the cocktail for table 1. So now the server has been gone from table 1 for approximately 10 minutes, but table 3's drinks aren't ready. If they spend anymore time waiting, they will also potentially neglect the rest of their section.
Efficiency can be measured in footsteps.
Our server comes back with the drink for Table 1. Their date has arrived, so they're ready to hear specials. They have a menu question, the date orders her drink, and the server walks back to put the order in the computer. By this time, table 4 has also been sat (waiting approximately 5 minutes). Table 3 has now been waiting on their drinks for 10 minutes. Our server has to make decisions like - how neglected can I allow table 4 to be before greeting them? Now table 3 is starting to look annoyed (still waiting on their drinks). Does your server go the distance to the bar? Neglect greeting table 4? That would also mean that table 4 will have been seated around 20 minutes before receiving their drink order (remember your server would have to go to the bar and back for table 3 to receive their drinks in timely manner, drop off drinks, take table 4's drink order, ring it in the computer, wait for it to be made, make the bar trip again. That would mean table 4 has waited for approximately 18-20 minutes for drinks.). That would also mean there isn't time to upsell them, probably not even time to say the specials.
Inefficient layout means less time at the table, which greatly affects sales.
Take this story and multiply the delay exponentially, because this section doesn't just have 3 tables, it has 6. This story is just getting started. Do you think, when it takes approximately 80 steps to even check on a cocktail's readiness, that drinks can be delivered in a timely manner? Do you think that the tables feel attended to, or do they perceive poor service? Do you think your server has time to sell the products you want sold?
Do you think your restaurant design impacts sales?
When one solitary martini, takes 15 minutes to deliver, do you think your tables are more or less likely to order another round of cocktails before dinner? Maybe they would have, but instead they'll skip to the wine. Maybe instead, of staying for dinner actually, they'll walk onto the the next spot that's less delayed in service (this happens). Maybe they'll stay for dinner, but not enjoy themselves. Their server was "clearly neglecting them," and their drinks arrived after their appetizer. The wine arrived as they were finishing dinner. They might have ordered dessert, but why bother? And their server always seemed harried. They told their friends to skip this place.
CAN YOU BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE EXPONENTIAL LOSS OF REVENUE, FROM POOR DESIGN?
If a cocktail takes 15 minutes to deliver, how many more do you think you'd sell if it took 8 minutes? Do you think tables buy more when something is readily available in the time frame they want to spend with you? If a server has the time to engage with their table, do you think they can sell more? Efficient work flow affords time with tables, which provides the opportunity to offer personal suggestions that not only bring in more revenue, they enhance the guests experience.
BEFORE WE GO INTO HOW THIS RESTAURANT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DESIGNED, WE WANT TO FURTHER ELABORATE ON ALL OF THE LOSS OF REVENUE THIS PLACE ENDURED.
POOR DESIGN DOESN'T JUST AFFECT PRODUCT DELIVERY, SALES, AND GUEST PERCEPTION, IT COMPOUNDS THE COST OF YOUR LABOR.
BECAUSE THE SERVERS WERE SO SPREAD OUT IN OBTAINING DRINKS, THEIR PARTICIPATION IN DELIVERING FOOD WAS MINIMAL.
That means that every night there were 2 food runners working. Having food runners in itself is not unusual, as it's important to get hot food out hot. But for a place this size having 2 every night is unusual. This means that even on a slow night (and during the entirety of the slow season), they still have to spend the labor on 2 of them, because servers didn't have the time to spend in the kitchen. That means, that every single evening, they were spending money on labor for inefficient design. In Seattle, the hourly labor rate is currently at 12. An average night shift for these expos was 7 - 8 hours. To be generous, we'll lessen the number of hours affected (because they're a hotel, had to also manage room service, and there are shifts that having 2 expos assists, like Friday and Saturday). But for ease we can SAFELY say, this inefficiency cost this place 50 dollars a day (4 hours) in unnecessary labor. This one detail accounts for $18,250 dollars a year.
EXTRA FOOD RUNNER LABOR = $18,250/year
BECAUSE THE INEFFICIENT DESIGN KEPT THE SERVERS SPREAD OUT, THEY ALSO HAD TO SPEND EXTRA MONEY ON BUSSER AND SERVER LABOR.
This restaurant had a hard time phasing people as well. It was incredibly difficult to stay on top of drink orders (as demonstrated above), so what would be easy in an efficiently designed place, required more people due to its inefficiency. Relatively normal business flow couldn't easily be managed, so there was always extra help needed from keeping bussers on, and more servers working during slower periods. Let's say again (and the actual figure probably greatly exceeds this) that the front of the house having extra staff on (busser, unphased servers, day and night) cost an additional 100 dollars a day equating to another 36,500 a year.
EXTRA SERVER/BUSSER LABOR = $36,500/year
POOR DESIGN ALSO AFFECTS THE ACTUAL PRODUCTS.
THIS RESTAURANT HAD SPOILAGE AND COMPS, TO MAKE UP FOR LONG WAIT TIMES
At times it was utterly impossible to get drinks to the table on time. Drinks that took 15-20 minutes would be comped. Some drinks had to be remade because they sat too long. This doesn't just affect profit, this affects sales. Your servers have less time at all of their tables if they're making up for poor design. Sometimes comps comfort guests, but they still would have preferred a timely delivery. So you've lost money, and guest perception. In drink delivery, timing matters. Guests are often pairing drinks (cocktails before dinner, wine during, dessert drink after). When this timing is off, they order less and are less satisfied with what they receive.
DRINK COMPS = $10,000/year
Because the bar well was in the furthest corner, they couldn't drop off bar glassware to be washed there. So ALL the wine glasses and cocktail glasses were washed in the industrial dishwasher along with the plates. As much as possible (if you're going to be high volume, and/or if your glasses are delicate) you want to avoid washing glasses through the industrial dishwasher, because everything goes down the train of that machine in a very violent manner. Glassware gets shaken, and scratched along the rim where its scraping along the rack. Even putting the glass in the rack logistically, offers the great risk (and inevitable effect) of breakage, because it has to be put in the rack at a tall height (because in dish pits, glassware racks are on the top of the dish pit in order to make space for the plates). With sturdy water glasses this isn't a concern. But for wine glasses, and beautiful barware, it's really troublesome. This particular establishment went through so many wine glasses management stopped buying them and blamed the staff. During a night shift, the servers would have to run a rack with only one wine glass in it (because that's the only spare one available), just to get their table's order. You can also imagine the time it takes to wash the glasses, cool them (from the high heat), polish them, and deliver them to the table. So this greatly affected sales and guest perception as well.
Again these are conservative estimates, but let's guesstimate that in a year, this cost the restaurant 10,000 dollars in glassware (wine & bar).
UNNECESSARILY BROKEN GLASSWARE = $10,000/year
ADDING UP THE COST OF POOR DESIGN
We must also look at the intangibles. Let's also subtract those losses:
- 74,750 +
- UNSOLD DRINKS
- UNSOLD UPSELLS (the server's time talking a table into higher quality product)
- UNSOLD APPETIZERS
- UNSOLD ADD-ONS
- UNSOLD ENTREES
- UNSOLD DESSERTS
- UNNECESSARY MISTAKES DUE TO BEING SPREAD TOO THIN