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How to Reduce Wait Times In Restaurants With Line Busting


Tessa ZuluagaAuthor

Picture a typical lunch or dinner rush. Customers are shoulder-to-shoulder near the dining area, calls are pouring into the takeout phone, and orders are lighting up your online ordering platform. No matter when the flood comes or from where a line is forming it needs to move fast.

For quick-serve and fast-casual restaurants, a fast-moving line can be the difference between easily moving through that rush and letting it overwhelm your staff. The key to getting the former instead of the latter — and improving the customer experience and retention possibilities — is cutting down on how long customers must wait for their orders.

A logical and simple fix to long lines is innovative technology that, at its core, prioritizes efficiency. Self-service kiosks and online ordering both help expedite the waiting process, and some restaurants even go as far as building their own order-ahead app to speed up lines. 

Next in that line of restaurant efficiency tools is Toast Go 2™, a handheld point-of-sale (POS) tool that enables workers to sift through long queues and shorten the checkout wait at QSRs. Put another way, Toast Go 2™ is a tool that can be a fast-casual restaurant’s most trusted ally to steer you through the next rush. And this handheld POS is built for line-busting.

What is Line-Busting?

“Line-busting” is a service model where cashiers can walk up the line in-store, taking orders and sending them to the kitchen through the use of a mobile point of sale. This process happens at a much faster rate than it does at the checkout counter. Line-busting enables the kitchen to start their work on cooking dishes faster, which can directly improve throughput and guest experience. 

The objective of line-busting is simple: to break up the clutter that long lines inevitably cause and shorten those long wait times. 

With purpose in place and tools at the ready, your line-busting strategy can begin to take shape. And, more importantly, you can start to see the dividends that it will ultimately pay.

For example, Flour Bakery, an award-winning cafe in Boston, aims to serve customers within seven minutes of payment. They’ve accomplished this by outsmarting the line with handheld tablets.

As guests wait in line at the counter, a worker works his or her way up the queue taking food and latte orders. When the guest reaches the counter, the cashier opens their order and the guest can pay by cash or card. With handhelds built for the restaurant industry, a credit card processor is part of the hardware, meaning your restaurant essentially gets an extra terminal without the space requirements or setup time.

With this system, orders are fired directly to the kitchen from the handheld and the grill cook is preparing your egg sandwich (which is incredible, by the way) before you’ve even paid for it.

Tanya Li, the assistant director of operations at Flour Bakery, shared that this system allows them to be at least a few minutes faster on each order.

What are the benefits of line-busting?

Sure, line-busting will quicken the pace with which your restaurant serves customers. But those fast-moving lines produce other positive outcomes:

Shorter wait times = bigger revenue

There is a clear link between line-busting and bottom-line boosting. Decreasing customer wait time can help revenue increase. According to Shopify, 7 in 10 businesses report that people forced to wait in line give up on making a purchase, and leave within five minutes. The Toast Go 2™ builds on the efficiency of the initial version by processing transactions in 1.6 seconds. With its handheld capabilities, the Toast Go 2™ enables workers to go to customers instead of waiting for them to start the payment process and increase revenue potential. 

Strengthen customer and staff connection

According to American Express, 70% of U.S. customers say they will spend more money with companies that provide great service. With the Toast Go 2™ in tow, employees can get from behind the counter or the headset and put more of a face and personal touch to their service. Seafood restaurant Eventide, employs a continued service model where multiple front-of-house staff members use Toast handhelds to take orders and send them to the kitchen in seconds. "Toast helps us bring the continued service model to life with handhelds,” says GM John Meyers. “Once they pick up their order at the counter, we didn't want the guest's interaction with the restaurant to be finished. So we have servers that roam through the dining room with Toast Go™ handhelds. It allows us to have another interaction with the guest and to sell a few more food items before they head out the door."

Increased tips  

As more and more customers choose to use mobile payments, the ability to seamlessly reward workers for a job well done becomes even more important — to the workers and the restaurant at large. Austin, Texas-based restaurant Odd Duck saw its servers take home $7,000 more annually in tips thanks to the first Toast Go™. 

The Toast Go 2™ chip-and-swipe payment method makes for a quicker, more beneficial transaction process, and the handhelds now accept contactless pay.


Tip Pooling Calculator

Use the Tip Pooling Calculator to learn how to distribute tips back to your restaurant’s employees using the tip pooling method.


How do I start line-busting?

Now that you know what the windfall is from line-busting, it’s time to learn how to put it into place. Here are some line-busting tactics to get you started:

Get the right technology

If the idea of line-busting is to see more customers without sacrificing accuracy or convenience, you can’t very well do that with a pen and paper. A handheld POS system like Toast Go 2™ goes directly to the customer and leaves little to chance in terms of order correctness and customer satisfaction. Without the technology, however, servers would all be working from the same couple of POS terminals, which runs the risk of diminishing service quality and having things get lost in translation. Find the kind of technology that helps the customer and helps you.

Determine your line-busting schedule

You know your customers and rush schedules. Like clockwork, you can sense when a flood of customers will descend upon your restaurant. With this knowledge, look at when line-busting is best deployed and when it will provide the most impact or value. 

Here are a few questions to keep in mind before deploying a line-busting solution:

  • Do your restaurant’s rushes usually involve 10 or more customers?

  • Will these line-busting needs be all the time or just for chunks of time?

  • Does your revenue justify buying the equipment?

  • Could your staff apply line-busting tactics to your drive-thru during certain seasons?

Keep these questions at the center of your line-busting technology needs and work it into your scheduling to ensure you’re using line-busting technology as it should be used.

Train staff to use handhelds and provide hospitality on the move

With Toast Go 2’s™ handheld functionality, restaurant hospitality can take a decidedly more mobile look. That said, the contactless payment options and ergonomically friendly device settings for the new Toast handheld will be best deployed with proper training. 

Supplement training on the new technology with lessons on how to continue practicing good hospitality habits. Remind them of the effectiveness of establishing good eye contact, being friendly, building rapport, and being a resource to customers. Make these tactics expectations and protocols that should be followed to make line-busting technology an integral part of the quick service experience. 

Bust a move

Customer-centricity is a value that only becomes more valuable during lunch and dinner rushes. Lines will build and orders will stack up, but that doesn’t mean your staff or your restaurant needs to be underprepared. 

Instead, invest in a solution that allows your staff to meet customers halfway and take more orders with less wait time. In the end, customers will appreciate it, staff will feel better prepared, and profits can soar.

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