Posted: 20/09/2019

The art of turning tables

If you’ve got tables in your shop, then you need to make them work for you. Lauren Phillips talks to Will Doyle, co-owner of Broadway Deli, about serving efficiently without alienating customers.

Café areas are great because they encourage customers to stay longer, drink in the experience and hopefully spend a bit more. But how do you deal with someone, who orders a small latte and croissant at 10am, still taking up valuable space two hours later?

Ensuring your seating works efficiently is not easy but it can be done, as Cotswold retailer Broadway Deli proves on a daily basis. 

“It takes a lot of concentration, multi-tasking and keeping the numerous plates you have spinning,” says co-owner Will Doyle, who regularly has to keep a keen eye on 63 covers across the deli’s two floors and rear patio.

Customers are engaged on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis, which Doyle says is the easiest and fairest system. “They can’t argue with it and nobody can jump the queue.”

Indoor tables are numbered while outdoor tables are colour-coded, which is novel but also makes it easier for staff to identify which table orders are outside. 

The team aims to attend to customers immediately, helped by a member of staff positioned at the till, noting down which table numbers/colours have become occupied and crossing them off once the server has taken their orders.

“It’s good to keep an eye on their arrival and speak to customers immediately because it lets them know they’ve been recognised and not left to flounder,” says Doyle.

Plates are cleared as soon as a table is finished eating. Although that might seem hasty to some, it keeps the flow of dishes to the kitchen steady. It is also an opportunity to ask diners if they want something else or the final bill. 

Those customers who prefer to stay long after they’ve finished their meals are few and far between at Broadway Deli but, if it does happen, Doyle is willing to turn a blind eye. 

“It’s not ideal but you’ve got to take customer experience into account,” he says. “We don’t want bad press. I would rather have someone sit for hours than get annoyed, leave and not come back.”

It’s fine to have a system but staffing is just as important for running an efficient service. Doyle and the other co-owners make sure every employee is trained to work in all areas of Broadway Deli, so they are able to jump on a till or serve in the café when things get busy.

“From an operational point of view, it is the best way for us as a small business,” says Doyle. “It can be quite fast-paced so it is easier if everyone is equipped to work in different departments.”

This story appeared in the September issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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