How to Turn Tables Quickly at Your Restaurant on Mother’s Day

Mother's Day is fast and approaching, and you need to have a plan for the oncoming rush of customers.
Americans are ready to splurge on Mother's Day brunch, but is your restaurant ready? (Photo: kudla/Shutterstock)

Restaurant owners, roll up your sleeves. Mother’s Day is just around the corner and is one of the biggest days of the year for dining out.

According to statistics from the National Restaurant Association, 38 percent of Americans go out to eat on the holiday, while seven percent order takeout or delivery. What’s more, consumers tend to splurge big on their Mother’s Day meals, averaging $60 per person, according to the National Retail Federation.

Dean Small, founder and managing partner of Synergy Consultants, said Mother’s Day is the biggest day for his clients. The action is nonstop and guests come in steadily, blurring the lines between breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.

As a restaurant owner, you need to ensure that you are avoiding lines out the door while giving your customers an excellent dining experience. The following tips will help you achieve these goals by turning tables quickly this Mother’s Day.

Hold pre-shift meetings


Hostess stands should offer coffee and tea to waiting customers, suggests Terri Marshall, project coordinator for Absolute Restaurant Consultants. (Photo: Terri Marshall)

To deal with the rush of customers coming into a restaurant, Small said he advises restaurant owners to hold pre-shift team meetings before Mother’s Day. “You will get everybody on board. Everybody will understand how teamwork is so important to the guest experience.”

Utilize the host/hostess station

Wait times at your restaurant could be hours long on Mother’s Day. While diners are just sitting around at the front of the house, the host or hostess should tide them over with complimentary lemonade, iced tea and coffee, said Terri Marshall, project coordinator and consultant for Absolute Restaurant Consultants. “Be sure beverage napkins are served with this drink so mama’s hands are kept dry. This service should be set up near the host stand and manned by the hosts (not self-serve).”

Marshall also recommended keeping the specials board and extra menus near the host stand so customers can plan their orders while they wait.

Offer a set menu


Streamline the process of taking orders by creating a prix fixe menu for Mother’s Day. (Photo: SewCream/Shutterstock)

If you’re trying to turn tables swiftly, a prix fixe menu is essential. “A set menu streamlines the flow of the order taking process as well as the back of house process,” said Marshall. “Having these logistics working like a well-oiled machine speeds up the process of getting orders to the guests, thus the dining process is shortened.”

In terms of what dishes to serve, Small said carved meats and items not requiring grill time or sautéing are best. “Operators get themselves in trouble because they don’t have grill space. It slows down the ticket time.”

Encourage teamwork among employees

You need all hands on deck on Mother’s Day, so employees must complete their specific jobs quickly and efficiently, as well as fully cooperate with their co-workers. “People need to help each other out by running food and pre-bussing tables,” said Small. “If a waiter pre-busses a table [while the guests are still there], bussing will go quicker because there won’t be many dishes on the table.”

Related: Is Your Waitstaff Annoying Your Customers?

Focus on the quality of the experience


“Focus on the experience and not on the sales. You need to give your customers an experience they won’t forget.” -Tim Doolittle (Photo: Tim Doolittle)

Tim Doolittle, chef and consultant who formerly worked with Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck, doesn’t advocate fixating on speed and quick table turning on Mother’s Day.

If you have to choose between providing a mediocre dining experience for a large number of people or cut back and give fewer guests an extra-special Mother’s Day experience, Doolittle said to choose the later. Most customers who come to your restaurant on Mother’s Day only dine out on special occasions, so you should work extra hard to convince them to come back. He said, “Capturing those people takes more than putting nice food in front of them.”

Whether you choose to aim for a high number of customers or take fewer reservations, as Doolittle suggested, your priority should be creating a memorable experience for the guest.

“Focus on the experience and not on the sales,” said Doolittle. “You need to give your customers an experience they won’t forget.”

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