November 22, 2022

3 Ways To Improve Table and Seat Number Systems

In this article: 3 common mistakes restaurants make when implementing table and seat number systems throughout service, and tips on how to improve this system in your restaurant. 

Table and seat numbers don’t get enough attention.

Table numbers are the backbone of a smoothly run service. Food goes to the wrong table? Game over. Party gets sat at the table being reserved for a VIP? Woops.

Seat numbers are like the bow that wraps a perfect service together. Without a reliable seat number system, staff is quickly auctioning food to guests who are confused themselves. Seamless service can only happen with seat numbers.

When it comes to mastering table and seat number precision, consistency is key. Let’s take a look at 3 ways to improve the table and seat number system in your restaurant, along with the most common mistakes most restaurants make in this area.

#1: Use table and seat numbers that make sense.

The most common mistake that I see in restaurant teams regarding their floor plans, is using a numbering system that makes absolutely no sense.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the design of a floor plan only allows for a tricky numbering system, and you just have to do the best you can. However, if you can make things simpler - do it! 

Here are some examples of how to simplify both table and seat number systems.

Table numbers:

Do some sections start with 1’s and others start with 0’s? Are there 50’s, 60’s and 70’s but no 10’s, 20’s or 30’s? Make sure the numbering system makes sense and is consistent throughout the venue. This will make it easier for your team to learn and teach to new hires.

Seat numbers:

How do you identify seat 1? Is it clear and consistent? Sometimes I will hear “seat 1 is always the person with their back to you when you walk up to the table,” but then there are three different ways you could walk up to that same table, meaning seat 1 could be 3 different seats if you simply followed that 1 rule. Take the time to identify seat numbers clearly at each table.

There is really nothing holding you back from changing table numbers at any time. Sure, it might be a hassle to do in your POS or seating system, but if it will simplify the way your venue runs and reduces the amount of errors your team makes, I say it’s worth it.

#2: Properly train your staff when they are hired.

The second most common mistake that restaurant managers make is that they don’t properly train their staff on the table and seat number systems they are trying to implement.

The restaurant industry is known for high turnover rates. That means that in most restaurants, there will constantly be new employees who are learning the lay of the land. Just because you (as the owner, manager, or long-time employee) can run food to the correct table with your eyes closed, doesn’t mean that they will be able to memorize the numbers in one day.

What kind of training program do you have in place for new employees? Do you make sure that they have access to the floorplan sheet on the first day and prompt them to study it? Or, do they get a quick once over with the trainer and a good ole “You’ll figure it out in a few days”?

If you want to reduce the amount of errors that your staff makes because of wrong table or seat numbers, make sure that you are giving them the knowledge they need at the beginning of their employment. Print a floor map out and hand it to them during their orientation, or give them access to a digital copy.

#3: Stay consistent and communicate changes when they happen.

The third most common mistake when it comes to table and seat numbers in restaurants is a lack of consistency and communication. As a management team, it is important to outline exactly what your standard expectations for table and seat number implementation looks like, so that your staff can perform accordingly. 

Too often a team member will say “Oh yeah, we’re supposed to use seat numbers but we never really do, everyone’s confused about them anyway.” This should be a huge red flag to management that they aren’t being clear with their expectations of service.

Once you’ve decided on table and seat numbers, and trained your staff on them, make sure you are holding the team (and yourself) accountable for using them! If you find things that need to change, do so and be sure to communicate the changes immediately.

Consistency and communication are your ticket to success here. Once you have a system down that works, you will find that your team is quick to master it and your entire venue will be better off.

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Give your table map some love this week. Think about how many errors and frustrations you could eliminate if you simplified your systems here. 

Maybe you’ll find that your team already does pretty well with running food, but you could make it simpler in one or two ways. Or, maybe you decide it’s time for a complete re-numbering and re-training. 

Whatever you decide your team needs, keep these tips in mind and you’ll be setting your venue up for success in no time.

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