The buzzing service

My mother-in-law’s colleague huffed to her one day that he has vowed not to step into a particular café ever again – a café he had adored for a long time. When she pressed and asked why, he said: “They have these buzzer things that will go off when your food or drink is ready. And then you have to go up to the counter to collect! Where’s the fun in dining in, then?”

These ‘buzzer things’ he spoke of are known as the Restaurant Paging System, restaurant buzzers or coaster buzzers (they’re usually the size of a coaster) and have become quite the staple for many F&B establishments in the city. There are three types of paging systems, in general:

  1. Waiter paging system

A waiter paging system is used for communicating between the kitchen and restaurant floor staff.

It offers a number of advantages to the restaurant operator; they do not need to work with runners to send food for the diner; waiting staff can fetch their own food from the kitchen when paged. And so they are able to pay attention to customers on the floor and effectively manage a demanding restaurant or bistro.

Customers gain the advantage of having improved and swift service. And with better communication from kitchen to servers, food is collected promptly and there is a reduced likelihood of cold food arriving to the diner.

  1. Guest paging system

This is used to manage wait times and queues into restaurants. It helps to prevent customers from giving up and leaving a busy restaurant. Offering this pager to customers allows them to walk around the vicinity, and have a drink by the bar or patio until they’re paged when their tables are ready.

Alternatively, it is used to alert customers when their food is ready to collect. These are mostly used for many self-service bistros, cafés (like the one my mother-in-law’s colleague visited) and fast food establishments.

  1. Call for service pager

This pager is placed on the table for customers to use when they require a server.

As a restaurant owner, the advantages of this pager is obvious – you’re saving costs on waiting staff, ensuring effective service, reducing the need of pen-paper orders, reducing hiccups on the floor and not having to turn away walk-in customers just because it’s a busy night. And with online applications such as NoWait and Waitlist Manager taking over these buzzer systems in swift waves, venue managers and restaurant owners have more options to maximise their services and minimise costs.

Customers too can be ensured of quick and fast service, but will these pagers work in a place where the experience is in dining in and being served in the old-fashioned way? I doubt it.

I personally do not mind the buzzer systems if I’m at a dine-dash bistro, pub or a restaurant where I’m doing a takeaway. I get the need for speed in places like these.

But if it’s a date night at a candlelit restaurant, I would very much prefer not to be interrupted every now and then with the buzzers going off at every table, and people walking to and from the counter to collect their food. The experience of a dine-in restaurant is surely not just the food, but also the service and being waited upon.

And I think that was what my mother-in-law’s colleague was whinging about. It becomes less personal when that experience is cut short and you have a coaster buzzer on the table, ringing for you to cut short your conversation with your companions, get off your seat and grab your coffees from the counter.

At the end of the day, whether or not to jump on the buzzing service, it ultimately boils down to this one question for your venue – what experience do you want to create for your customer?


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