Knowing your restaurant’s seat turnover rate can help you figure out if you’re serving customers in a timely—and profitable—manner.

But what exactly is seat turnover rate and how do you calculate it? And more importantly, how do you increase seat turnover so you can increase sales? Let’s get into it.

What does Seat Turnover Rate Mean?

Seat turnover rate is the average number of times a seat will be occupied in a restaurant during a meal period. The higher your seat turnover rate, the higher your sales.

How to Calculate Seat Turnover Rate

Seat turnover rate is calculated by dividing the number of customers served in a given time period by the number of seats.

For example, let’s say you have 10 tables with four seats each, meaning you have 40 seats total. During your dinner period, you serve 160 customers. Divide the number of customers (160) by the number of seats (4) and you get your seat turnover rate: 4.

You can also calculate table turnover rate by dividing the number of tables by number of parties served. In this example, it would be 10 tables and let’s say 40 parties. The table turnover rate would then also be 4.

What is a Good Table Turnover Rate?

No matter which type of kitchen you are operating, table turnover rates impact cash flow.

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

With this in mind, you can determine if your table turnover rate is too low.

In the example above, we determined that our table turnover rate was 4. Let’s say the dinner period lasts from 4pm to 10pm (6 hours). So, you’re turning each table 4 times in 6 hours.

To figure out what your table turnover time is, divide 4 table turns by 6 hours to get 1 table every 90 minutes.

4 turns ÷ 6 hours = 2 turns per 3 hours = 1 turn per 1.5 hours

In this case, your restaurant is well below the optimal table turnaround time.

Keep in mind that the customer turnover formula will vary depending on the length of the meal period you’re measuring and what type of restaurant you’re running. For example, if you run a fine dining restaurant, a lower table turnover rate is expected, as people are enjoying longer (more expensive) meals.

10 Tips for Increasing Table Turnover

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

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

You can also take advantage of contactless ordering and payment, which allows guests to pay when they order or as soon as they’re finished with their meal. No need to wait for a waiter to bring them their check.

In most cases, guests just scan a QR code to access the menu and order. Once they’ve selected their food and drink, they’ll either be prompted to pay to put their order in, or they may have the option to wait to pay till the end of their meal in case they want to order more.

4. Use A Cloud POS Instead of a Fixed Location Setup

Tablets and remote POS systems have changed the game for restaurants, speeding up service which contributes to better table turnover rates. By giving servers and staff the ability to take orders from their table instead of running back and forth from a fixed location POS, eateries can offer faster service and generate food tickets right away.

This also encourages teamwork! Now, food runners and bussers can assist servers and bartenders in delivering food, running drinks, and clearing plates while wait staff are free to greet and serve other tables. Customer turnover goes up while productivity soars.

5. Rely on Restaurant Automation to Speed Up Ordering and Closing out Checks

Just like using a Cloud POS, online ordering, remote POS stations, and contactless payments have become an essential part of table turnover and dining out safely and efficiently in our modern world.

Restaurant Automation incorporates a variety of technologically advanced solutions, like self-ordering kiosks, no touch payments and QR code menus, to keep diners and employees happy and healthy. With these options in place, seat turnover becomes a breeze as patrons are in control of browsing, ordering, and closing out checks without constant assistance from a server.

6. Don’t Take Reservations on Historically Busy Nights

Yes, reservations can make the dining experience more convenient for customers. Inevitably, some diners will arrive late to their reservation and some won’t arrive at all, meaning you’ll have tables sitting empty—meaning your table turnover rate will be lower.

On your busiest nights, the negative effects of late reservations and no shows compound quickly and can result in a low turnover rate. If there are certain dates that you know will be busy, consider removing the option to make reservations to increase turnover.

7. Curate a Concise Menu for Easier Ordering

When presented with too many options, customers can become overwhelmed and waffle on making meal decisions. Not only can a smaller menu mean faster ordering and higher table turnover, but it helps your restaurant produce higher quality dishes.

Imagine having to train your servers and chefs on fifty selections with various modifications and substitutions versus fifteen, straight forward options. Showcase your best recipes while simultaneously increasing table turnover.

8. Incorporate Family Style Dining Tables

Shared ten tops and long feasting tables are a great way to increase your table turnover rate and serve all parties, big or small, in a timely manner.

For example: a walk-in party of 2 arrives followed immediately by a party of 6. Instead of taking up two tables, offer casual, “family style” seating to allow instant service and save tables for previously booked reservations.

The party of 2 will be able to sit across from each other for a semi-private dining experience and the party of 6 will have the second half of the table with a couple seats in between, creating a feeling of separation. One server can assist both groups which simultaneously reduces their table visits back and forth between front of house (FOH) and back of house (BOH).

9. Avoid Dim Lighting and Dark Settings

Statistics show that many elements contribute to increasing table turnover, such as décor, music and lighting. Bright lights and vibrant, warm colors keep customers alert, reducing long mealtimes and lingering patrons.

Keeping your guests comfortable is key, but if the lights are too dim in your dining room, restaurant goers are more likely to eat slower, settle in and occupy valuable real estate.

10. Implement Table Time Limits During Busy Service

Since the pandemic hit in 2020, bringing the restaurant industry back to full force has been tricky. Reduced capacity requirements and physical distancing have created new challenges when designing restaurant floorplans and reducing table turnover rates.

Implementing a time limit (usually 90 minutes) during peak hours can help flip tables without making diners feel rushed. Making these time limits clear at the start of service in a polite and professional manner can help keep revenue flowing by freeing up space in your restaurant.

Happier Customers and Better Seat Turnover

Table turnover rates are important to running a successful restaurant. This useful data, designed to increase profits. GRUBBRR’s software for restaurants is designed to make the dining experience quick and convenient for your customers while making you more money.

If you’re ready to learn more, request a demo today.