How Restaurants Can Increase Profits During Those Crucial Peak Hours

Restaurant_peak_hoursMany restaurants focus on trying to increase business during their off-peak hours. It’s an important aspect of your operations to be sure, but what about maximizing your sales and profits during your peak operating hours?

The majority of your restaurant’s revenue is generated during its peak times, and those hours likely account for almost all of your profit. So how can you improve turnover (without blatantly rushing your guests) and get the most bang for your buck from those peak service times?

Here’s a few suggestions.

Take a Look at Your Seating Plan

Try to avoid a situation where all of your tables are occupied while actual seats still go unfilled. Do you have any four-tops that could easily be separated into two-tops?

There will always be some parties of two requesting the extra space of a four-top and you should do what you can to accommodate those requests. However, you need to prioritize servicing as many diners as possible and reducing wait times.

A full dining room is a good thing; being known for having long wait times is not.

Do a Little Menu Engineering

Consider re-working your menu offerings in order to speed things up for both guests and the kitchen. Menu engineering will help you pinpoint your top selling and most profitable items. Lose your under-performing dishes, simplify your menu, and help things move faster during rushes.

There are three good reasons to engage in menu engineering:

  1. Larger menus take longer to peruse. The more choices guests have, the longer they’ll take to decide.
  2. The bigger your menu, the more cluttered your POS menus (depending on the software, mind you). This means serving staff may spend more time in front of a terminal looking for items.
  3. Large, varied menus can create less efficiency in the kitchen. It means less multiple orders in the same pan, which means more time being spent preparing meals.

Staff Up

More staff equals more labor hours, right? Well yes, but consider how much more efficient you could be if you had one extra body to help out during busy periods. A great example of this is an expeditor.

How much time is wasted having incorrect/incomplete orders returned to the kitchen? Not just that, think about those orders that were correct but sat in the window too long and arrived at the table too cold to eat.

Having an expeditor helps minimize these hassles by ensuring food is hitting tables quickly and correctly. You’ve added another hourly wage, but the cost of it versus the increases in speed and accuracy may well be worth it.


Cross-train your staff so they’re able to move to other stations in the restaurant during those peak hours if need be. The ability to assign more people to fewer tasks during peak operating times is essential for eliminating bottlenecks. Can your prep people easily move to the salad station or the grill during peak hours? Can a host or busser easily step in as your expeditor to clear out your jammed-up pass thru window?

Have Your Best People Where They Should Be

When those busy hours hit, be sure to have your best people in position. Seniority counts, but when peak times arrive you need to have your best people running the show. That means your most efficient servers, your fastest kitchen staff, your quickest bartenders, etc.

If you find your new hires are already among your best, then you may wish to think about how much weight you’re giving to seniority when scheduling for peak times.

Get the Word Out on Cancellations

Do you have any reservations that didn’t show? Of course you do, it happens to every restaurant. Don’t let those last-minute cancellations leave you with empty tables during peak times. Let prospective diners know you’ve got an opening.

Many establishments now use social media for this purpose. Updating your Facebook status and/or sending a tweet is quick and easy; it’s a great way to let customers know you’ve got an opening. See this example below from Babbo in New York City.



Keep an Eagle Eye on Upcharges

When a shift gets busy, servers and bartenders can occasionally forget to ring in that side of gravy or extra sour cream. Trust your staff of course, but there’s no harm in keeping an eye on those smaller transactions, especially during your most hectic hours. An occasional audit of your POS to make certain that drinks and condiments are charged wouldn’t hurt, just make sure staff know you’ll be checking.

For a look at another aspect of restaurant efficiency be sure to download our free ebook, Improve Your Restaurant’s Ordering Practices, by clicking the image below. 



Cover image via Flickr
NOTE: This post originally appeared on’s Restaurant Strategy Blog.


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