Running a Restaurant/Wait Times


Hi David, I manage a small family owned restaurant on the river in Florida. We have a very small kitchen but a very large area of seating. At times I go on a wait list even though only 30% of the restaurant is full. Customers do not understand this, all they see is open tables. My kitchen can accommodate 12-15 min ticket times only if given 1 ticket every 4-6 min. I tried seating guests  and allowing drinks only and 5-10 min wait time B4 ordering, it did not work well. The next day I tried the wait and got bad reviews bc of open seating. Any suggestions

Hi Laura,

It is good that you have the problem of lots of guests, but certainly challenging if your kitchen is too small.

Here are a few ideas (and that assumes that adding kitchen space is NOT an option):

Revamp your menu with an eye for items that can be pre-prepped and simply "finished" on the line.  Moving from cooking very many raw products to assembling items can reduce ticket times.

Consider more "steamtable" based items.  Since I do not know anything about the restaurant concept, style etc., I can't really suggest specific items at this point.

If your restaurant serves burgers, go with smaller burgers you flatten on the grill and serve "doubles" as your standard burger.  Again, not knowing your concept I am not sure if this is applicable.

Promote specials during peak times that are based around fast-to-execute items that can be prepared in advanced and finished on the line.

Look at your kitchen equipment.  Is it operating at its peak? Do you regularly calibrate grills, ovens etc?  Have you considered replacing existing pieces with high performance pieces such as TurboChef accelerated ovens, etc.?

Your customers are right to be upset if there are empty tables and your are not seating them.  But I understand that seating them and having a long ticket time is going to frustrate them as well.  No matter what you tell them, they are simply NOT going to understand.  Your survival depends upon curtailing the menu to eliminate long cook time items and simplifying the remaining items, updating your kitchen and/or pre-prepping and finishing.  Most likely, you will need to employ all of these tactics.  

Another idea would be to offer value-priced "Early Bird" specials during off hours - such as from 4:00 - 6:00, etc. to spread the crowd out a bit so you are not slammed so hard during peak times.

We work with restaurant operators like yourself from coast-to-coast. You (and the owners) will find our fees to be reasonable and our help invaluable.  If you would like to email me directly and schedule a no fee, no pressure conversation about your particular situation, I will be happy to do so!

Best of Luck!

David Foster
Foster and Associates
417 877-0428 office
417 849-1903 cell

Running a Restaurant

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David Foster


We have been in the restaurant industry for over 40 years and consult with restaurants, casinos, food court concepts, bars and hotels nationwide. We love helping restaurant operators succeed and can answer any questions related to restaurant start-ups, business plans, operations, labor costs, food costs, liquor costs, employee turnover, marketing, operational improvements, franchising etc.


I am a seasoned foodservice veteran with nearly 50 years experience in the industry. My extensive background includes overseeing multi-unit, multi-concept restaurant operations ranging from cafeterias to fine dining, and everything in between. I have a strong hands-on operations and marketing background that give me a unique insight into the “Real World” challenges of the restaurant industry. I have extensive concept development, menu and recipe development and kitchen layout and design expertise. I am effective in analyzing operational needs and identifying practical solutions in today’s very dynamic foodservice environment. In the industry, I am respected by my peers and have served on the Board of Directors of the Missouri Restaurant Association and have been a featured speaker on the subject of Home Meal Replacement at various national events. I also served on the Culinary Advisory Board of the Ozark Technical College as well as serving on the Board of Directors of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Ozarks.

Member of the National Restaurant Association, Past Board Member of the Missouri Restaurant Association, Past Board Member of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Ozarks

The Consultant, Seasoned Views (a trade magazine for the restaurant industry, QSR - a publication dedicated to quick serve and fast casual concepts.

Attended Drury University, Springfield, MO, Varsity Management, SRI

Awards and Honors
I have had restaurant projects featured in The Consultant (a magazine for foodservice consultants with worldwide circulation). I was honored for achieving the highest level of management competence by the Selection Research Institute.

Past/Present Clients
Sugar Creek Casino, Classic Rock Coffee Company, Mark Twain Brewing Company, Springfield Brewing Company, Bruegger's Bagels, M&M Grill, Paco Joe's, Holiday Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Buffalo Run Casino, Golden Corral Corporation, Crosswinds Café, Chinese Chef, Mr. Dunderbak's Old World Market & Café, Bullfeather’s Wings and Grille, Mainstreet Market, Bear Rock Café, Cartoon's Oyster Bar & Grill, T's Redneck Roadhouse, Jim's Steakhouse, Neighbor's Mill Bakery & Café, Crazy Vine, San Francisco Oven, Maria's Mexican Restaurant, Andy's Frozen Custard, The Granite Club, Umi Japanese Steak, Seafood and Sushi, Springfield Grocer Company, US Foodservice, Premium Standard Farms, Smithfield, Dakota Organic, Kraft Foods, Allens, Inc.

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