Restaurant Wait Times

Restaurant Wait TimesRestaurant Wait Times

I recently ate at a LongHorn Steakhouse in Florida. The food was good, but the wait time was horrible.

I had more than an hour and a half to think about a “Restaurant Wait Time” article.


Personally, I avoid restaurants that have any wait times. However, I wonder…restaurants with long wait times must be good. Maybe I should avoid restaurants that have no wait times. If they were any good, they would have a line.

That being said, let’s take a look at some research, articles, and remarks about restaurant wait times.

“Restaurants have wait lists an average of 6.6 hours per week, with parties waiting nearly half an hour on average for a table, according to data from a new study.”

Most restaurants don’t have a way to engage customers while waiting for a table. You have a choice of twiddling your thumbs or buying a drink at the bar.

The LongHorn Steakhouse has an over flow of customers waiting outside of the restaurants along with a bunch of customers playing musical chairs for any remaining seats.

My experience is that most restaurant greeters have no training in what to do with the waiting guests. I have the feeling that asking the greeter where you stand on the guest list gets you placed on the bottom.

Even though I enjoy eating at the LongHorn, I avoid it due to their long wait times.

There are ways to make those long waits shorter.

Actually, the amount of time you wait on line is really the perception of how long you are waiting. So, you may be waiting for 42 minutes. However, if the restaurant has Wi-Fi service for guests, and you have your Smart Phone or Tablet with you, that 42 minute wait time may go faster and feel like only 21 minutes.

If you are offered peanuts, popcorn, or a drink, or a complementary dessert, that wait time may feel even shorter.

It would be nice if the restaurant greeter was able to identify each of those waiting for a table and give an updated estimate of the waiting time.

Many restaurants give guests a pager while waiting. That gives the guest the opportunity to take a walk, visit nearby stores, and still keep his place on the wait list.

LongHornlet’s you call the restaurant for placement on the waiting list. They don’t call it a reservation. When you call, you are told that there is a 45 minute wait. If you arrive at the restaurant in 30 minutes, then your actually waiting time is cut to 15 minutes (but don’t be late).

Some restaurants offer no cost video games and bingo for waiting customers. You can make newspapers, magazines, and Tablet Computers available for waiting guests. That’s a lot better than having an angry looking greeter who won’t tell you how much longer your wait will be.

Remember, it is not the actual wait time that customers object to. It is the perception of the wait time that makes the difference. Amusing your guests and keeping them comfortable is a big plus. Bore them and make them stand in a small vestibule makes guests uncomfortable and less likely to return.

You may also want to post a list of hours that your customers may want to avoid in the future and encourage guests to return at hours that are more likely to have shorter or no wait times at all.

For more details and comments go to:

Study Released on Average Restaurant Wait Times (FSR or Full-Service Restaurant Magazine)

For a more detailed study of wait times go to:

The Psychology of Wait Lines

There are new applications available to restaurants that replace outdated paging systems and handwritten lists. Restaurants are able to text guests when their tables become available. See more information and get a video tour of the system at:

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