We went out to eat last Friday at one of our regular eateries while on vacation. Things had changed. The spot where we usually sat was now occupied by two empty pool tables. Other seating areas had been replaced with over-stuffed chairs. The capacity sign from the county said 139 people but we only counted chairs for 65 and not very many tables. Even though the place was only half full, they barely had enough tables of the right height and shape to put two together for the six of us. They almost sent us away at 5:45pm. The pre-wedding party that arrived moments later had no choice but to sit out on the patio with the bugs.
We went out to eat on a Monday night at a small, off-the-beaten-path dive known for oysters and fried seafood. We were a group of eight. Figured we would be largest group in the restaurant. We tied for third largest (fourth if you count the baby in the car seat). The waitress was running ragged. Two of our party did not get served until well after the rest of us had decided to eat before our food went cold. The food was great but the poor servers and cooks were struggling to keep up with the crowds, even though the two larger groups were from reservations.
Both of these restaurants left me wondering what might have been. Although I have frequented these places multiple times in my years visiting this area, I am sure many of the patrons were there for the first, and possibly last, time. Those same people are telling their friends,
"Don't go there, they don't have any dinner seating. I think it is more of a bar place."
"Don't go there. The food is okay, but the service sucks."
Yet the solutions are simple. The first place needed more tables that could handle groups of six (not an uncommon number at a beach resort). There was plenty of room for more tables and chairs. The second place just needed to call in another server. The two large groups were reservations. They knew they had a crowd coming.
Sure, both of those things might cost some money up front. But remember, your business tomorrow is directly related to how well you serve customers today. Plan for success by making sure you are ready for the crowds and you will never send customers away unsatisfied. Think of the message you send your customers when you can handle the really busy moments. They will walk away thinking, "Gee, they handled the crowd well. The store must have expected to be that busy."
That is a pretty good message to send out into the world.
PS Crowds are your moments to shine. You have the most potential people available to give you word of mouth advertising. What would you like them to say?