Foodie Friday at last! Here is a question for you: why is it that we pay for a meal in most restaurants after we are done and yet we pay at most quick service places before we actually even get the food? I’m guessing the immediate thought you had was that you sit and enjoy the meal in a restaurant, perhaps ordering as you go, while at a fast-food joint you’re eating and running. Is that really true though and what effect might changing that thinking have on both your experience as a customer and the restaurant’s business?
Let’s give it some more thought. How often does your party order additional food (other than perhaps dessert and/or coffee) once the initial order is given? Do you usually order your appetizers alone or are you specifying your entrées at the same time? I’ll bet it’s the latter. I’ll make an argument that changing that thinking might be better for both parties: the customer and the restaurant. There’s a business point in here too.
First, the customer (always in this space!). By ordering the entire meal upfront and settling the bill even before the food arrives the customer is free to leave when they’re done. How many times have you finished a meal and then had trouble getting the server’s attention? Haven’t you ever given a server your credit card only to have them get another table’s food while you wait around? Annoying, isn’t it? And good luck if there is an error on the bill – that can take quite a while to fix while you’re ready to leave.
The tip isn’t an issue either. In many other countries, service is stated upfront and tipping is discouraged. Sure, we like to think of the size of the tip coinciding with the level of service but there is nothing that prevents you from putting some additional cash on the table as you leave if you feel the service charge isn’t enough.
Next, the restaurant. Turning over tables is the business. The longer people stay put the fewer meals you’re serving. With the bill settled I’m wagering people will leave sooner. In doing a little research on this I found that when upfront payment was tried it increased table turnover by over 80%. Sounds like a win-win to me. So why isn’t this the norm?
That’s the business point. Too often we do things just because that’s how we (and in this case almost everyone else) do things. Part of our job as businesspeople is to ask questions about our systems and processes and remember that made sense a year ago may not make any sense now. Even if it does, maybe there is a better way that works both for your business and for your customers.