long lines

The costly consequences of long restaurant lines

By Matt Parkin

In the bustling world of restaurant management, the sight of long lines forming at your establishment can evoke mixed emotions. On one hand, you might be filled with pride in the success of your business and the traffic that you’re seeing. On the other hand, feelings of stress and fear can emerge from being understaffed and potentially losing out on purchases from frustrated customers. Recent studies have underscored the reality that businesses lose a significant number of customers due to extended waiting times.

Understanding the psychology behind a customer’s perception of a long line is essential. Delving into the research, we uncover insights that shed light on how to stay ahead of this challenge and maintain a thriving restaurant business.

Long lines are more than just an inconvenience — they can be financially damaging. A study revealed that businesses lose 75 per cent of customers due to waiting times, but even worse than abandoning a line, what’s most intriguing is what is behind a customer’s decision to avoid joining the line altogether. Renowned psychologist Adrian Furnham’s “rule of six” states that queues longer than 6 people tend to deter individuals from joining.

So, if your business often sees lines of 6 or more customers, it might be worth exploring ways to keep the line short to avoid deterring potential customers from waiting and losing out on sales.

The case for a second pair of hands

Business leaders require a strategic approach to efficiently address the challenge of long lines. One powerful solution is ensuring that your quick service establishment has at least 2 staff members working during peak hours. While this is an added labour expense, it may actually improve your bottom line. Consider this: the cost of employing an additional team member for one hour might cost $16.

To see a positive return for that wage, you’ll need to generate at least $16 of additional revenue each hour from their work. If the average purchase is more than that, and at least one customer each hour is attracted or retained due to shorter lines, you’ll see a positive financial return. Making the math work may be a way to improve your margins while keeping lines shorter and customers happier.

Sustaining a dual-staff approach

The question now is, how can you ensure two staff members are present at all times without compromising the financial stability of your restaurant? One avenue to explore is proactive recruitment. Initiating contact with potential candidates and cultivating a pool of part-time employees who seek flexible hours can be a game-changer for your business. FindWRK’s “Picture of the Hourly Workforce” report highlights scheduling flexibility as a top priority for job seekers. By offering more part-time positions that align with workers’ availability, you can maintain a reliable roster of team members and reduce occurrences of short-staffing.

Unleashing the potential of mentorship and growth

A unique opportunity for mentorship and professional growth emerges with more employees on your roster and multiple employees working each shift. Seasoned staff members can assume mentorship roles for new employees, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose. This approach not only aids in smoother operations but also aligns with job seekers’ desire for exciting growth opportunities. By harnessing the expertise of senior staff members, you not only enhance the customer experience but also create an environment where talent is nurtured and your staff is motivated to succeed.

Moving forward

The impact of long lines on your quick service restaurant’s bottom line is a complex challenge that requires a multi-faceted solution. Understanding that customers don’t want to wait is a crucial first step. By implementing a dual-staff approach during peak hours, you can enhance efficiency, retain customers, and ultimately bolster your revenue.

Proactive recruiting and maintaining a pool of flexible part-time staff further solidifies this strategy, enabling you to navigate staffing challenges with agility. Embracing mentorship and growth opportunities within your team completes the circle, creating a comprehensive approach to streamlining success and ensuring your restaurant thrives in today’s competitive market.

Matt Parkin is the Business Development Lead at FindWRK. He helps employers quickly connect with hourly employees without needing a job posting.