If there's one truth about the restaurant business, it's that hard working people love to eat out. It's the perfect way to achieve a few minutes of relaxation and enjoy a good meal without expending the time and energy to cook something at home.
From office bound professionals dashing out for a quick lunch to executives impressing their clients with fine dining, restaurants have always been the go-to location for anyone whose life is currently all about their career. That said, just because you can count on professionals to eat out doesn't mean you should take their business for granted. Every modern city has a vast number of restaurants to choose from, so if you want to be the favorite spot for high-tipping professionals, the key is to make your dining experience absolutely supportive of their busy, quality-oriented lifestyles.
Understanding Your Professional Clients
While what they do may vary wildly from computer programmer to construction contractor, most professionals have a few shared and easily identifiable desires of their dining experience. These customers aren't eating out to pass the time, they're in your restaurant for a meal better than they could cook at home and are often seeking the efficiency of a place to eat close to their office or en-route to somewhere else they need to be.
This means that their time is valuable and you need to do everything you can to respect that. While, of course, your first priority is to serve them delicious dishes, the second item on your agenda should be to have them seated, served, and able to pay as efficiently as possible. When your food is good, your service is enjoyable, and professionals find themselves out the door with five to ten extra minutes they didn't expect to have, you'll quickly earn yourself a repeat customer.
The Lunch Rush vs Dinner Service
The literal length of the 'lunch hour' varies between companies and positions, but it's always finite. Professionals who go out to lunch usually do so with a plan to be back at their desks at least five minutes before their allotted time is over. Because of this, they will tend to favor venues that can have them in and out within their limited time without sacrificing either food or service quality. They are just as eager to turn over their table as you are, so you can gain a lot of points by both working quickly and remembering not to accidentally rush the customers out of their chairs. You can also gain a tremendous amount of clientele by offering fast take-out for the GrubHub crowd and even a fast-casual lunch bar whether or not your venue is usually fast-casual during dinner service.
Dinner service, on the other hand, may be busy for you but it is much more leisurely for professional clientele. Most professionals dining out are either looking to unwind with a good meal before heading home or are still working by hosting dinner meetings in your venue. This is the right time to turn down the lights and play soft, relaxing music. Those unwinding are looking to sit quietly or with a few friends and talk about non-work concerns while the business meetings will most likely want to emphasize the quality of your service and menu as a form of impressing their guests. For both groups, make sure to serve efficiently while staying respectfully out of their hair. They are here to enjoy the food and the ambiance and then get on their way to either bed or a scheduled evening recreation.
Reducing Waits for Seating
Now that you understand what the customers are looking for, we can explore the methods needed to meet their goals at every stage of the dining experience. From the moment a busy professional walks through your door, your mantra should be "Their time is valuable". Long waits are irritating for everyone, but these valuable customers are some of the most likely to bail early in order to find somewhere that can seat them more quickly. To avoid this, offer to start them early with patio seating or a place in the bar where they can get drinks and look at the menu without standing around waiting for a table.
Efficient and Delicious Service
Once your professional guests are seated, do your best to make sure their plates get to them quickly and are cleared just as efficiently between courses. If they select something that takes a particularly long time, don't be shy about informing them of the approximate wait. Most professionals appreciate someone who provides realistic expectations management. They may still order the time-consuming dish, but will be less bothered when it takes 45 minutes to prepare and will feel free to linger over appetizers.
It's always good manners to offer desert before the check, but don't be pushy. Some customers will want to be out the door almost as soon as they finish their entrees while others will see your supreme chocolate cake as a great way to reward themselves for a hard day at work. In many cases, you'll know which is which well before the crucial moment.
Handling the Check
This is always the most delicate part of any service, as everyone responds to the check differently. Some wait impatiently as the waiter goes through the necessary process of finalizing the order, printing the receipt, then processing payment while others will talk happily through the process and barely notice it. Then there are groups that want to split the check, creating a unique challenge for your wait staff every time. No matter how the client seems to respond, with professionals your goal is always to get them out quickly and efficiently.
Of course, with modern table service technology, you don't have to bring them the check at all. All you need is a mobile payment app and your customers will be able to handle their check and even split it however they like in the comfort and privacy of their table, leaving your staff free to serve other customers. With this innovation, customers can leave whenever they want, saving as much as ten minutes per customer during a busy dinner service.
Catering to the Take-Out Crowd
If there's one thing that busy professionals love, it's delivery and takeout. This gives them the opportunity to work late, eat at home, or even join a friend somewhere unusual and still enjoy the same quality of meal they could get in your restaurant. Especially with the advent of sharing-economy food delivery, this trend is on the rise and you could be growing your customer base simply by jumping on the bandwagon. Make sure your restaurant is fully registered on the popular delivery apps and have an efficient take-out process then watch the orders come flooding in. You may even find yourself with a growing number of dine-in customers as those who enjoyed your meals at a distance come in for more when they're in the neighborhood and have an hour to spare.
Hard working local professionals can become incredibly loyal customers. When they can count on you to provide a delicious meal and enjoyable dining experience in record time, you will quickly become part of their daily or weekly routine. Those who have loved your food within the venue will order it as take-out when they can't get away from other responsibilities and those who enjoyed your take-out first will later come dine with you in person. Simply by valuing the time of your customers and giving them back a few extra minutes of their busy days, you will earn yourself a permanent place in their hearts and meal plans.
Are you looking for a simple solution to streamline your operations, increase table turnover times, and provide your customers with a memorable, tell-their-friends-about-it experience? The Ready integrates seamlessly with existing payment workflows and POS solutions—allowing your FOH staff to spend their time where it matters most. Try Ready for free today.