New to the restaurant industry? We’ve got your back. Find out how to choose the right restaurant service model

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1. Table Service

This is the model that most people associate with full-service restaurants — guests are seated at a table when they arrive, a server leaves them with menus and takes their drink orders, the server returns with drinks to take their food orders, they (or a food runner) bring the food, they eventually return to drop the check, and then they’ll either take payment with pay-at-the-table technology or by going back and forth between the table and a POS station.

2. Counter Service

This more informal model is where guests line up to order at a counter and either give their name or are given a number, and they seat themselves at communal or individual tables in the restaurant. They pick up their own food at the counter when their number is called. This model used to be associated exclusively with fast food concepts, but in the past few years, more and more high-end restaurants have taken this approach to cut down on labor costs. This has given way to the surging fast-casual chain restaurant like Shake Shack, Panera, and Raising Cane’s.

3. Continued Service

The continued service model uses restaurant technology to let guests choose their own dining timeline. It’s similar to the elevated counter-service model described above, but the restaurant still has servers.

4. All You Can Eat… Sometimes

The phrase “all you can eat” may conjure up images of overflowing buffets — which we’ll get to in a minute — but there are other ways to go about using the all-you-can-eat framework at your restaurant.

5. “Half-Service,” Hybrid Service, or Fast-Fine

Hybrid or half-service falls somewhere between table service and counter service. One restaurant in Chicago has decided to try this new model as a way to expand their restaurant.

6. Small Plates Service

In metropolitan cities in the U.S., most small plates bars and restaurants fall into one of two categories: tapas/meze, and dim sum.

7. Kiosk Self-Service

Usually put to work in fast-casual or fast-food restaurants, kiosks can speed up service and drastically lower your labor cost.

8. Buffet Service

Buffets, as previously mentioned, are the classic American form of all-you-can-eat dining, but they’re also common in Indian cuisine, among others. At a buffet, hotel pans are filled with food that’s kept warm by heating elements below — or kept cold with refrigeration — and guests are encouraged to keep serving themselves until they can’t eat anymore.

9. Prix Fixe Service

Prix fixe means fixed-price in French, and the term is used to describe when a restaurant has one or two set menus for the evening, with little to no customization, and with several courses for each guest. Sometimes the menus change daily, but many restaurants rotate weekly, monthly, or seasonally.

10. Build-Your-Own Service

Popularized by sandwich shops and then adopted by burger spots, burrito places, and salad chains, the build-your-own model has become the norm in many fast-food restaurants due to the increased demand for customization. Subway, Chipotle, Sweetgreen, and Blaze Pizza are all examples of this model, but independent businesses have begun to adopt it as well, even in full-service restaurants.

Which Model is Right For You?

When deciding which service model you’ll use in your restaurant, there’s a lot to keep in mind, including what kind of technology you want to invest in, what kind of employer you want to be, what you want the guest experience to look like, what kind of food you’ll serve, and how you’ll aim to confront challenges like rising labor cost and minimum wage. You have a lot of options — there’s no one way to run a restaurant — so talk through all the service models above with your business partners and get to work.

TackPay is the digital tipping platform for bars, restaurants, and hotels. Tip jar for waiters and baristas.
TackPay is the digital tipping platform for bars, restaurants, and hotels

TackPay is the digital tipping platform for bars, restaurants, and hotels:

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