Choosing a service model for your foodservice business is a difficult task. Each model has positives and negatives, and the decision will impact the restaurant experience and flow. The two objectives; ordering and delivery, can be performed in many ways. Ordering can be at the counter, through a waiter, tablet, online, or by phone. Delivery can be self-pick-up, drive-thru, to your table by a waiter, by a robot or machine, or to another location. Traditional quick-serve restaurants have limited service, using counter ordering and customer pick-up. On the opposite end of the scale is full table service, with ordering and table delivery by wait staff. There are also hybrid restaurants emerging now, such as the “fast casual” segment that often uses partial service, with counter ordering and table delivery. Factors such as the type of food served, number of staff available, and time customers are willing to spend in the restaurant will dictate an appropriate service model. In Shikatani Lacroix’s work designing branded foodservice experiences, one way we assess which service model to choose is to map out the ideal customer journey that matches with the brand’s positioning and the business needs. The following three questions can help narrow down a service model that will be a good fit for your business.
Question #1: What will your customers’ “need state” be when they choose to purchase food from you?
A) They are looking for a sit-down, enjoyable experience with no time limit
These customers are in no rush and would most likely prefer full table service. Having a relaxing experience is a priority. Technology at the table to call the wait staff or provide an optional table ordering service could also improve the experience.
B) They are looking for a quick, convenient, sit-down experience
These customers will sacrifice some service to speed up the process. Counter ordering and customer pick-up will be the quickest method, but pairing counter ordering with table delivery service using table numbers (used in the DQ Grill & Chill design by Shikatani Lacroix), or buzzers that notify customers when their order is ready for pick-up can make their experience more convenient.
C) They are looking to eat your food at another location
These customers are looking to order take-out or delivery food. Explore online or app-based ordering with a delivery option as well as an in-restaurant counter or digital kiosk to order take-out. If there is also sit-down service within the space, consider a distinct area for ordering take-out with express lines.
Question #2: What type of restaurant experience do you want to offer?
If your brand is all about value, consider solutions that will reduce the price of your products. Using minimal service and technology can help to keep costs low.
If your brand is positioned to deliver quality experiences, consider a higher level of service with wait staff.
If you are looking to be perceived as innovative, consider mixing personal service with cutting edge technology.
Question #3: What are the staffing and space limitations?
A) The number of staff is not limited and there are many tables
If staff and space are available, there is potential for a sit-down experience with full table service. Other factors will determine which service model is the best fit.
B) A medium number of staff with many tables
If the number of tables exceeds the number of staff available, consider integrating technological solutions into the restaurant to help with customer service.
C) As few staff as possible with limited seating
If staff and seating are limited, consider take-away and delivery services to increase sales. Alternatively, consider technology-based ordering to reduce the number of staff needed (i.e., tablet ordering, online ordering, etc.)
These questions can help determine a successful service model for your business, whether you are a brand-new establishment or looking to evolve your current model. If, however, your business varies according to the time of day and your customers’ needs are diverse, there is also an option to use a mixed approach. For example, flex-format design varies the service by daypart, with counter service during lunch and full table service to customers during dinner hours. In this model, digital features such as menu boards can transform their role from informing customers about the lunch menu items to evening decor during dinner hours. The staff roles also transform from taking orders from behind a counter to directing customers to their seats.
Overall, the right service model will offer customers a branded experience that also meets business needs, and a better match will enable success.
Has your foodservice business experimented with different service models? How do you decide what works and what doesn’t? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to receive the latest Shikatani Lacroix insights in your inbox.