Over the years, I have seen that for most hospitality brands, especially restaurant chains, the guest experience drops the most at peak times.  In fact, for some brands, nearly half the customer dissatisfaction comes during peak times.


Imagine your brand is designed to serve 100 customers at peak time. That means if 100 customers come in, each is likely to experience the brand at the 100% level.

  • What happens if 110 guests come in?
    • Then the 110 guests must share the experience and each get 10/11th of the experience; or 91% experience level.
    • The worrisome part is, for the brand to operate at 91%, nearly half the guests may get below 91% experience level.
    • Is that acceptable for guests?  Will the diluted experience make them want to come back?
  • If 120 guests come in then the level drops to 83%.
  • If 130 guests come in, then the level drops to 77%.


Hospitality brands I have studied, have the following:

  • A lunch peak time between 45 to 70 minutes; and a dinner peak time between 60 to 90 minutes.  There could be other peak times during weekend or other periods.
  • During peak time, transaction spikes to 2x to 4x the transaction levels before or after the peak.

Unfortunately, we cannot hire partial labor and labor must be scheduled at 4 hours/team member or more.

So how does one plan staffing to address this peak time?


Quite a few brands have a team member huddle before peak time to bond and have a huddle at the end of the peak time.  Does a huddle help? Or does the huddle remind the team that ‘we are heading into the peak time under-staffed and somehow need to get through it’.


Think of this challenge from a football example.  If you were a NFL coach then the peak time translates to a “two-minute drill”.  To be a successful coach you must realize the following:

  1. The “Two-minute drill” needs a completely different game plan compared to the rest of the game.
  2. The success of the “Two-minute drill” may determine if we win or lose the game.
  3. It is not just enough to have a different game plan for the “Two-minute drill” but one must practice it frequently.

Hence, I strongly urge operators to have a game plan for peak-times.  Here are some thought starters:

  1. Change the labor model for the peak time.  Invest more in labor before the peak time (in prepping) and in serving guests during prep time. This is critical as you cannot afford to have dissatisfied guests.
  2. Free up management time. During the peak times to cheer the team members and assist them during the period.
  3. Have a total different operations system during the period.  Managers can work next to the team and give team members mini-beverage-breaks, being on the clock; giving them an opportunity to catch their breath.
  4. Focus on serving every guest one-guest-at-a-time. Instead of rushing to take care of all guests.  Because of this if there could a long line or a few guests may leave.  But that will be better than the guests leaving dissatisfied.  It is much more difficult to get a dissatisfied guest to come back than a guest who chose another brand because of the long lines; as the long lines is proof that the brand is a popular spot worth visiting another time.
  5. Huddle to celebrate. Finally, at the end of the peak time, a team huddle is a great idea.  But instead of it being just a “routine huddle”, managers should pause to thank the team and mention the “super play” of different team members or groups that resulted in the win.

As you start thinking about creating your plan for “peak times”, just remember that “at times it is better to be inefficient by choice, to make sure that your brand experience does not get diluted.”

Arjun Sen