The optimal seat turnover rate in a restaurant is approximately 45 minutes. Customers who linger and remain at their tables longer contribute to decreased revenue and tips.

This is because restaurants have fixed capacities, which means that the number of customers that can be served at a time is limited to the number of seats, making restaurants’ revenues capped to their sizes. The customer turnover formula is therefore critical to profits.

High seat turnover rates help combat this innate limitation. The more guests served in a given time period, the more sales a restaurant will have. Thus, a restaurant’s profitability is tied to its seat turnover rate, and ensuring it is of utmost importance.

What does Seat Turnover Rate Mean?

Seat turnover rate is the average amount of times a seat will be occupied in a restaurant during a meal period, and the rate is calculated by dividing the number of customers served in a given time period by the number of seats.

How Can a Restaurant Increase its Seat Turnover Rate?

Increasing restaurant turnover rates boosts profitability. Here are three different strategies to do so:

Train Servers Properly

Customers hate standing at the door to be seated, especially when there are open tables. However, this common occurrence does not only harm a guest’s experience; it also harms a restaurant. The longer it takes to seat a customer, the slower the seat turnover rate.

Servers should also be trained properly — as soon as customers arrive, employees should greet guests and, if possible, seat them, as well. According to industry benchmarks, once seated, a server should arrive to a guest’s table within one minute. After ten minutes, food should be ordered. This will increase turnover rates and sales.

Suggest Meals That can be Prepared Quickly

One of the most common questions asked by guests to servers is, “What do you recommend I order?” When answering, servers should suggest meals that can be prepared quickly. Not only does this lead to increased seat turnover rates, but it also leads to decreased wait times.

It’s a win-win situation — customers will be happier because the food will be served faster, and restaurants will be able to serve more people with a higher seat turnover, leading to increased profits.

Give Guests the Check Before the End of the Meal

The check is a guest’s cue that a meal is complete. It signifies the end of a dining experience. Giving guests checks before the end of the meal ensures that once they’re finished eating, they don’t linger.

However, when doing this, it is important to do so politely and appropriately. The optimal customer turnover formula should never make a guest feel rushed when dining out — exceptional service should always be a restaurant’s number one priority. Additionally, when presenting a check to a customer, always thank them and wish them a good rest of their day.

Restaurants are unique in that they have fixed capacities. However, an increased seat turnover rate ensures this is not a limitation. When guests are seated and served quickly, a restaurant can serve more people and in effect, generate more sales.