Eggs Up Grill’s strategy is to get a high volume of customers in and out without rushing them.
If you walked into an Eggs Up Grill any given day, you’d likely spy a table of bankers having a business meeting, a group of first responders finishing a shift or even a table of parents eating with their kids. Or at least that’s the picture CEO Ricky Richardson paints in describing a typical scene at the Spartanburg, South Carolina–based breakfast and lunch concept that’s rapidly expanding throughout the Southeast.
Whether they know it or not, the amount of time these guests spend at Eggs Up Grill is influenced by the brand’s efficient throughput strategy. On weekdays, most customers will be in and out the door in under 45 minutes. Yet they’ll never be rushed, but rather they’ll feel welcome to stay all day if they wish.
Increased throughput offers obvious benefits: The faster a guest is in and out, the faster another guest can take that table and so forth. When compounded over weeks and months, those extra minutes add up, significantly boosting revenue. But efficient throughput is often considered the purview of quick-service and fast-casual concepts; counter ordering and menuboards signal a speedy experience. On the other hand, the presence of servers and hardcopy menus invites diners to sit and stay awhile, pushing full-service restaurants to explore more subtle efficiency hacks.
Eggs Up Grill has three primary techniques that turn tables faster. Last year, it introduced handheld, wireless technology that allows servers to send orders to the kitchen instantaneously. The chain also rolled out pay-at-the-table service to cut the time it takes to take credit cards to the POS, process the payment, and return it to guests. “They’ve really impacted our business,” Richardson says. “It speeds things up.”
Servers also tailor the experience to the customer’s timeline, which can lead to faster throughput. They are trained to read visual cues that might suggest a customer needs to be out the door faster; first responder uniforms connote a job that doesn’t provide extended breaks and bankers’ laptops suggest that plates need to be cleared quickly. If a server is unsure of a table’s timeline, they are encouraged to ask the guests if they need to finish up quickly. Based on the response, servers can customize service and suggest dishes that are faster to make.
Speed in the kitchen is key to efficient throughput, Richardson says. While there’s no official policy for how long a guest stays at Eggs Up, most dishes should be in front of a guest within 12–13 minutes of ordering. “Keep popular recipes as simple as possible,” he says “Focus on taking low-selling items off the menu. If your team doesn’t make something often they forget how to do it well and have to look at the recipe book. That slows down the process and makes them inefficient.”
Dallas-based Street’s Fine Chicken offers a creative, upscale medley of chickens including fried, roasted, peri-peri, and other styles. It began in 2016 with a full-service restaurant and opened a fast-casual store soon after. Experimenting with both models has provided valuable lessons in efficiency.
The full-service location has a throughput time of about 45 minutes, except during brunch. “We’re Southern chic. We don’t take ourselves too seriously—it’s chicken after all and chicken is supposed to be fun,” says owner Marco Street. “Every customer feels like they’re getting as much time as they want even though we’re staying in control of the whole experience.”
That control is largely achieved through staffing. Hosts receive extensive training in efficient, non-linear seating strategies and communication. This knowledge base helps them navigate potentially tense situations, such as explaining why a party of six may be seated before a party of four. Accordingly, host wages at Street’s Fine Chicken match the level of logistical skill required, Street says.
“One thing that we’ve learned from our fast casual is that more staffing can lead to increased sales, and making sure the front of house is staffed properly can improve efficiency,” he says. Like a fast casual, Street’s full-service restaurant uses staggered schedules so there’s double or triple coverage for drink deliveries or food running during busy times. The mechanization of fast casual means that each staff position is just as important as the next; in full service much more is put on the server. At Street’s Fine, however, more people do more, Street says.
It’s common for full-service restaurants to employ barbacks or have bussers fill drinks in the back, but Street’s spreads that responsibility to the front of house, too. While servers run food, one of several bartenders might run drinks. “In fast casual, we staff almost each individual task, and we’ve incorporated that into our full-service restaurant,” Street says.
More staff doesn’t necessarily mean more attention; too much can cause guests to feel rushed. “Staff needs to almost be available without being there—present but not overbearing,” Street says.