Choosing Counter Service or Table Service for Your Restaurant

When opening a new food service business, you have two choices regarding your customers’ experience: Should you opt for counter service or table service?

In a “quick-service” or counter service model, your customers will order from you directly at the counter, and pick up their food once you call their names, with no gratuities expected. With table service, they will wait to be seated at a table, order from a waiter or waitress, and (hopefully) leave a tip.

Here’s what to take into consideration when deciding whether to be a quick-service or full service restaurant.

Are your customers more likely to order food for take-out or eat in?

Before making a decision, consider your potential audience: Is your restaurant located in an area where a lot of office workers are located, who are likely to take their food to go? Or are you based in an area where people are visiting for leisure, making them more likely to take their time over a restaurant meal? Do some market research on the food businesses in your local market, and see who they’re serving and how likely they are to stay — if most customers are on the run, counter service is a better bet.

How many tables do you have?

In many cases, whether to choose counter or full service may be determined by your restaurant’s layout. If you have just a few tables, most customers will choose take-out by default, so counter service makes more sense; if you have many seats available, you have more flexibility. When considering counter service for a larger restaurant, however, make sure that you can easily alert customers when their orders are ready by using an intercom or buzzer system.

How many employees do you want to manage?

While the bulk of a wait staff’s paychecks comes from customers tips, it’s still important to think about how hiring more employees might impact your management approach. Hiring, training and supervising new employees can take up valuable time, and a poorly trained employee can hurt your customers’ experience. By limiting your operation to counter service, you can get by with fewer staff.

Which method will create the best customer experience?

Many restaurant customers are happy to pick up orders from the counter and bus their own tables — however, if you aren’t keeping a close eye on the dining room, you run the risk of a messy restaurant that could turn off potential new customers. On the flip side, if your wait staff doesn’t deliver food in a timely manner, that could sour diners on your establishment, too.

Regardless of which option you choose, you can speed up and simplify your ordering and payment process by making use of an iPad point of sale solution. Using a mobile system to process cash or credit cards means that you can ring customers up either at the counter or tableside instantly, and even let customers place their own orders on your tablet — enhancing the customer experience no matter how you run your business.