(Blogger’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on loitering customers and turning tables.)
Faced with the same problem as Mariska Tomlinson is facing I decided to put a stop to to lingering customers and discourage them from overstaying their welcome.
It was a drastic meaasure but it solved the problem.
As I wrote yesterday, there was a lengthy line at the door at my quaint 50 seat bistro, Chez Foley. The winter chill was whipping across
When they arrived, the two well dressed women claimed two others would be joining them. When I asked for the names of the guests, they hesitate. I knew it was a “We want a four-top scam.”
They had pulled a
After an hour long lunch, and a 15 minute coffee sipping segment, I told the waiter I needed the table. The line at the door was lengthy and the looks I was getting from my partner, Kranston, who was working the door, certainly made me want to leave.
But the waiter had little success in four attempts to perk their enthusiasm for departure. I told him I would try it.
I offered to but them a drink at the bar. No response. Moments later, I explained the house would like to offer them dessert and a drink at the bar. No response – they were not impressed and actually told me I was interrupting their lunch.
That pretty much did it. I immediately and assertively explained I needed the table. I let them know that they were holding up the line at the door. When they responded that it was their “Christmas lunch” and they had no intention of leaving, swords were drawn.
I quickly explained the difference between a Christmas lunch and a Christmas party and told them they had crossed the luncheon line and had entered party territory. I outlined my party charges and explained my real estate theory and the requirements to obtain real estate at Chez Foley.
When I brought up the fact they had lied about the occupants at the table and my leasing agent- my waiter was losing money on the transaction they were getting insulted but still refused to leave.
When I told them they were getting evicted they refuted if I threw them out they would never come back.
Thankfully I imposed a life time ban and 8y6’d them from the Chez Foley. I begged them to tell their friends about the incident so they would be encouraged not to loiter.
Everyone in the line was happy as we continued to cater to the customers with a better outlook on restaurant life. And Christmas cheer.
Now, eviction isn’t a tool for everyone. But since that day – at Kranston’s encouragement- ten tips on quickly turning tables when they are needed.
Remember, dining room rhythm is an art form. You need to master.
Here are Ten Tips on turning tables.
1). Make sure everyone is offered an adequate amount of time to order, eat, converse and pay their bill.
2). Once step one is accomplished, decide how badly you need the table.
3). Train your wait staff in the art of time’s up techniques. These include hovering once the check is paid and the table is completely cleared. Asking if there is anything else the party needs. And, finally, commenting on how long the line, while including the weather report. “Boy the line at the door is unbelievable today. It must be because it is so nice outside”
4). This is rather drastic, but it does work. Changing the tablecloth- while the guests are sitting. Crumbs on the lap always encourage the guest stand up.
5). Putting a small suggestion on the bottom of your menu, comically sarcastic of course pointing out the time after meal charge also works. Invoke the rule once and you will never need to invoke it again with the same customer. Here’ an example:
Real estate on this block is expensive. There is no charge to park yourself here, unlike your car outside. However, we do expect the parking spaces within to be used enjoyably while respecting the needs of other guests. Under the city code passed last week you cannot spend more than one hour at any table without food in front of you otherwise the city surcharge will be initiated. (This will prompt your loiterer’s thinking and they will comment in wonderment about those weird officials in city hall who passed such a ruling.)
6). Have the manager, or owner, continuously walk by the table, scoping out the situation with menus in hand.
7). Have the waiter join in the conversation while passing an opinion on the subject. Guests hate it when they think the waiters have been listening to their conversations.
8). Have the waiter suggest that he needs the table.
9). Ask them politely to leave or let them know when they first sit down that their reservation is only for a specified amount of time since you have another party coming in at a specified time.
10). Finally, a last resort is to buy them breakfast at a competitors, telling them it will be cheaper for you to send them down the street rather than lose all the customers you are losing by not being able to accommodate them.
Just think if we could send all of our bad customers to the competition, eventually we would have no competition, but we would get those customers back. Oh hell, we just can’t seem to win.
Good luck, Mariska.