Planning Food Service Queue Areas: What You Need to Know
The layout and design of a counter-service restaurant’s queue is one of the most important components of the overall operation. The customer experience—from waiting, to ordering and receiving their meal—is second only to the actual food they eat (and hopefully, enjoy) when it comes to determining whether they will be a one-time guest, or a regular brand advocate. When planning a food service queue area, the main goal should be a smooth flow of service from the door to the meal. Achieving this involves the integration of both customer and employee needs, along with excellent visual communications.
Planning a restaurant layout typically begins with working with a professional consulting team of architects, engineers and contractors. These professionals will be able to evaluate the space and provide recommendations, plans and work teams to bring the concept to life. It is important to select potential partners based on their portfolios of previous work and whether or not they understand your unique vision and target market. In a well-utilized space, customers should not feel cramped or trapped, and employees should have enough room to perform their tasks efficiently. An experienced consulting team should be able to create a layout that meets these needs even in the smallest urban deli.
A well-planned space promotes the easy flow of customers from the front door to a satisfying meal, and visual communications are an essential part of maintaining efficient flow. Directional signage shows customers where the line begins, where they order and pay, and where to find to-go items. Menu boards improve order flow by allowing customers to decide what they want before they reach the register. Excellent signage makes life easier for staff along with patrons; clearly marking restrooms and trash stations allows employees to spend less time answering repetitive questions, and more time serving and bussing messy tables.
Visual communications play an important role in the overall dining experience beyond simply providing directions. By placing digital signage along the consumer queue, restaurants can highlight new items and engage customers while they wait. Digital signage menus can be changed with the click of a button, allowing them to showcase the latest daily specials and restaurant events or promotions. In larger cafeteria settings, station signage helps diners locate the salad station (and ensures they don’t miss the dessert table). Safety and health signs (such as “Employees must wash hands before returning to work”) keep restaurants in compliance with federal regulations.
Engaging signs extend the restaurant’s brand throughout and improve the overall customer experience. For example, the healthy fast food chain Tokyo Joe’s often has a long line at the lunch rush, but they use a sign at the front entrance to encourage customers to not be intimidated by the line, in the brand’s fun tone.