I have been constantly perplexed over the last 3 months with just how many venues are going with counter service over table service. There is a place for counter service, but why are so many cafes and restaurants now implementing this service style? Is it because they can’t find well trained hospitality staff to manage table service properly or are they just being lazy?

When I sit down for breakfast and I decide I want a second coffee and an orange juice, I don’t want to get up to order. So, I don’t, and the venue loses another $10 spend from me.

I’ve put together a basic pro’s and cons list for table service, trying to decide when is the right time for counter service to be used in a venue.

Pro’s counter service

  • Puts onus on customer to order when ready and service staff can’t overlook them. This can reduce complaints.
  • Save on labour and staff training. 
  • Easier to manage if you have high staff turnover or lower skill base.
  • Simplified service style.
  • Good for quick meals and drinks, where people will not order additional items.
  • Suitable for take-away venues or venues with a high proportion take away customers.
  • Can make splitting bills easier

Cons counter service

  • Customers have to queue, can cause bottle necks at the venue counter and it looks messy.   
  • If people are blocking your displays items by queuing, you lose your visual marketing tactics
  • If people see a queue it may deter them from entering
  • Queuing at a counter can make it harder for larger groups, especially those sharing dishes
  • Reduces upselling – if there is a line behind you staff may be rushed
  • Can include multiple transactions per customer if they need to get up to order more than once, increases venues eftpos fees and harder to determine spend per patron and covers per day
  • Can put excess pressure on the counter staff which are often the bar staff and baristas
  • You could lose the friendly atmosphere and customer relationships that good personalised service can bring
  • What happens with cutlery? I often find in this service style cutlery comes out after the meal is delivered and I must ask for it.
  • Lose the opportunity for second orders, second beverages, more meals and add ons
  • No chance to identify and fix service issues quickly
  • Reduces tips due to pay as you go prior to experiencing the service
  • Often hard to work out which table to send F&B to, customers misplace table numbers,
  • often confusing table number systems are used by venues
  • Guests can sit waiting without realising its counter service
  • Counter service doesn’t allow you to turn tables over quicker, offer bills and help guide the customers dining experience

Do the savings on labour out way the losses on upselling and add-ons and decreased customer service experience? In my opinion no. Not for a venue that has 20 pax seating capacity plus an a la carte menu and majority of dine in customers.

I do believe if a venue is designed appropriately, we should be able to facilitate both table service and counter service for take away orders and those that just want to come up and order.

Free Staff Recruitment

If you want well trained hospitality staff for your venue please contact us, we can forward you our students that have undergone months of hospitality training. We can even run job adds for you and help recruit for specific role. We don’t charge anything for this service as our goal is to assist our  students to get work. www.serveitup.com.au or call 1300 555 748    

Hospitality Training Melbourne

If you staff need training and want to ensure your venue can make table service work for you, contact Serve It Up Training. Our hospitality courses cover table service, sections, point of sale training, counter service, F&B, bar, cocktails, coffee, beer pouring, RSA, RSF, first aid,  tray service, 3 plate carrying, customer service, complaint management and much, much more. Government funding made available by the Skills First Program is also available for eligible students.

Courses available include:

We hope you will contact us for our wide variety of hospitality courses in Melbourne, including staff that can fill your hospitality jobs. www.serveitup.com.au or call 1300 555 748       

Stay tuned for the next blog, which will discuss splitting bills and why a venue should allow this, especially with the cashless economy.

By Amy Hickman, CEO and founder of Serve It Up, December 31st 2018.