Customer Experience

Creative Ways to Move Your Checkout Line Faster

By Andrea Victory

Two women in checkout line talking to employee behind the counter

People spend an average of five years of their lives waiting in line. Couple that with the fact that most people in today’s fast-paced, high-tech era don’t like to wait for anything and you can see why people in lines are eager to get out of them!

A fast moving line means customer retention. Customers don’t mind spending a minute waiting while they scroll through their Instagram feed, but once they begin to get a sense of delay, impatience takes over and things can get heated.

Don’t let your line get the better of you or your customers. Use the eleven creative tips below to bust the wait at your quick service venue.

1. Create an Ideal Time per Customer

Your POS holds the key to speeding up your service. Use reports to analyze the data around how many customers you serve during your busy times. You’ll be able to see how many customers you served during a rush and determine an ideal time per customer. Once you have this number, you can work out what needs to change in order to move customers quickly through the line without compromising on service. For example, knowing that you have one minute to get someone from ordering to payment completion to latte in-hand, might mean that you need a faster payment processor and a second barista.

2. Clearly Mark the Stages of Your Line

Moving customers smoothly through the stages of your line can make all of the difference. Marking out where the line begins, how to order, and where to wait for food and drinks will take care of a huddle of confused customers wondering if they are ever going to get their order.

3. Work the Line

What’s better than finally making it to the checkout? When the checkout comes to you! Impress your customers and speed up their wait time with a mobile POS that a staff member can breakaway from the counter with. With a mobile POS, customer orders can be processed on the spot as staff work down the line.

4. Consider a Customer Facing Display

Don’t just make your lineup move faster, enhance the guest experience as well. With a customer facing display, customers can see their order and check the cost on their own. This means that they have the confidence that their order will be correct, and won’t waste any time asking about the final total of their order or confirming that you heard them say they wanted their latte with soy.

5. Multiple Cash Registers – One Line

Lineups make people feel powerless, and waiting can make customers more observational and competitive. There’s nothing more peeving to a customer than having to choose a checkout and then watch while all the other lines move faster than the one they chose. Eliminate that pain altogether: one line means that customers are served in the order they arrived. No pain, all gain.

6. Answer Questions with Clear Signage

Clearly marked signage on food items can drastically speed up a line. Customers can place their order with a clear, “I’ll have a chocolate almond croissant”, instead of trying to point out and describe what they want. As well, think of what icons and markers you could use to symbolize answers to your most popular customer questions. If customers are forever asking, “What do you have that is gluten free?” then a gluten-free symbol on all gluten-free items can help clarify so time isn’t wasted at checkout.

7. Consider a Quick Transaction Line

If a portion of your customers often order a single item or pay with cash, think about creating a clearly marked speed line. Think of Starbucks’ coffee-only line, or the five-items-or-less line at a grocery store. A fast moving line for popular items can thin out the crowd and help you serve more people.

8. Streamline Your Back of House Processes

When your line cooks or baristas have to take time away from their station to go restock the milk, or grab something from the walk-in fridge, that time can impede the flow of service and make for longer wait time. Even having to repeatedly reach farther than necessary to add a condiment adds up. Make sure that your staff have enough of what they need within reach to get through a busy period and that their stations are organized to maximize productivity.

9. Engrain a Sense of Urgency in Your Restaurant’s Culture

There’s hardly a point to streamlining everything if your staff go about their roles with a lackadaisical attitude. Make sure your staff feels the need for hustle and they respond with energy and readiness. Customers will notice whether or not the employees behind the counter are making an effort to serve them efficiently.

10. Sign Up with Local Ordering Apps

If you live in a big city, it’s likely that there are pickup or takeout apps that you can sign up with to alleviate some of your lineup during rushes. Customers signed up on the apps can order and then pop by to pick up their food when it’s ready so that they don’t have to spend half their lunch break standing around. Just make sure that you have a system for pickup orders and clearly marked signage so that customers don’t get confused and end up waiting in the wrong line.

11. Schedule Enough Staff and Define Their Roles

If staff are leaving their station to grab something, or moving away from the counter to field a specific customer request, the whole chain of efficiency can break down and chaos ensues. This can be avoided by asking staff about the hiccups they face during a busy shift, and then clearly defining roles to address them.

By using a smart POS, properly scheduling and motivating your staff, and streamlining processes and procedures, you can speed up your line and serve more customers – faster.  

Looking for more great tips for your QSR?

Photo of Andrea Victory
by Andrea Victory

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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