Managing the Wait Time

 
During major sporting events, waits at Duffy’s Sports Grill can top 30 minutes.
During major sporting events, waits at Duffy’s Sports Grill can top 30 minutes. Photo courtesy of Duffy’s Sports Grill.
Turn the negative wait into a positive, lucrative experience.

Misty Young, owner of Squeeze In, South Reno, Nevada, doesn’t believe she’s in the food business.

“We’re in the mini-vacation business,” she says. “Guests’ experiences begin as soon as their tires hit the driveway, and I want every experience to be good from start to finish.”

The problem is that being mostly a breakfast and lunch chain, the three Squeeze In restaurants in California and Nevada are incredibly busy in the mornings, especially on the weekends. There’s typically a 15- to 60-minute wait, but as Young points out, that wait is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s another chance for the restaurant to keep its customers happy and, maybe at the same time, make a little money.

“You’ve got to take care of those people who are waiting. They want to spend money and I want them to spend money while they’re waiting,” Young explains.

So, killing two birds with one stone, Young and her staff offer the waiting customers drinks, which can be anything from a cup of coffee to a Mimosa. Typically on a party of four, she might make $20 while they are waiting.

Squeeze In even has a special deal on its Bloody Marys and Mimosas. Its menu states ‘Every Bubbly Needs a Buddy!’ and ‘Every Bloody Needs a Buddy!’ offering the drinks in pairs, $8.99 for two Mimosas and $11.49 for two Bloody Marys.

“So, we’ve hooked them up with a deal and we’ve served them a special beverage while waiting,” says Young. “The guest wins on two fronts.”

The wow factor

Of course, no system is perfect. “Once in a while, we don’t capture the beverages on the ticket, but that is not a deal-breaker for us,” she adds. “Most folks are honest, and, frankly, if we lose a cup of coffee or two, even a Bloody Mary, it’s not going to put us out of business. The wow factor is worth it.”

And that wow factor applies to the kids as well. The Squeeze In offers a free order of toast “to help with children’s hungry tummies.”

Adam Robin, the managing partner of The Office in Delray Beach, Florida, and at two Vic & Angelo’s restaurants in Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, says that during busy times all three restaurants invite guests to sit at the bar or outdoors and enjoy a cocktail or two, sometimes at discounted Happy Hour prices.

The restaurants may also leverage busier hours to test drink specials. These are offered at a discount to encourage more people to try them and share their opinions.

Wait times are the perfect opportunity to introduce guests to new cocktails that they might enjoy again on a future visit, Robin says. “Our hostess, bartender, or manager has a captive audience, so they will spend extra time with the guest to explain our concept, our food, our drinks, and our atmosphere, because we believe that an informed customer is our restaurant group’s best friend.”

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