Line Busting: Limited Service’s Secret to Increasing Restaurant Sales

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Have you seen potential customers moving on to another restaurant because your line and wait time was too long? For quick service and fast casual restaurants, knowing how to reduce wait times in restaurants is crucial for customer retention.

When discussing reasons to invest in new technology, restaurateurs typically talk about efficiency. They’re adopting new technologies like self-service kiosks and online ordering. Some have even built their own order-ahead app. One of the most effective ways to drive efficiencies is by speeding up the line to cut wait times.

You can achieve that with "line busting," using mobile handheld tablets like ToastGo™. "Line busting" is a workflow where your staff works up the line to take orders on mobile handheld tablets – faster than the counter staff can work the stationary terminal. It enables the kitchen to start working on orders faster, which improves throughput and the guest experience.

For example, Chef Fabio Viviani’s Instagram-worthy BomboBar in Chicago keeps wait times in check even during the busiest of summer nights, by outsmarting the line with handheld tablets.

While guests wait in line at the counter, a worker works their way up the queue, taking food and drink orders — and guests can pay by credit card before they even reach the physical counter. With handheld tablets built for the restaurant industry, a card processor is part of the hardware – meaning, your restaurant gets an extra terminal without the space requirements of a stationary terminal.

With this system, orders are fired directly to the kitchen from the mobile tablet, and the BomboBar kitchen staff starts preparing your sandwich, gelato or namesake doughnuts before customers have even paid for it.

This kind of technology-aided workflow allows limited service spots like BomboBar to shave minutes off each order – and increase sales in the process.

How Does Line Busting Help Restaurants?

1. Increase Revenue with Line Efficiency

One study found that just a seven-second reduction in customer wait times increases a fast-casual spot’s market share by as much as 1%. How many more guests would you serve if you were three minutes faster with each transaction?

Spoken Cafe, a commuter favorite located next to a Chicago elevated train stop, noticed the business impact from line busting. “[Line busting] has made a huge impact on helping us get through the rush faster,” says Will Goodwin, the owner. “We use handheld tablets to jump through the line and take orders before people get to the counter. The average ticket time during our rush is down to about 8.5 minutes, which is much better than it was with our pen-and-paper system.”

2. Full-Service Hospitality Meets Limited-Service Speed


Line busting brings the hospitality of full-service restaurants to the quick pace of the fast-casual experience, allowing your team to get out from behind the counter and engage guests easily.

Boston-based Eventide Fenway adopted this model in their fast-casual concept. Rather than force customers to get back in line if they want to add extra snacks and drinks later on, employees work the floor, tablet in hand, taking orders for additional food and drinks right at the table.

3. Handheld Tablet = Mobility

Handheld tablets reduce restaurant wait times by placing a fully-functioning POS terminal in the hands of employees, enabling mobility and immediacy not possible with stationary terminals. Taking an order, slipping the terminal into your pocket, and then bagging a customer's order is efficient – and empowering.

4. Easily Increase Tips

As the economy becomes increasingly cashless and the cash tip jar is becoming a thing of the past, limited service workers will still want to earn their tips. With line-busting technology, tipping is an easy prompt. And since guests will be impressed with the speedy service, bulk tips might increase for your workers.

3 Steps to Cutting Limited Service Restaurants’ Wait Times

Step 1: Choose the Right Technology


Pen and paper are not the right tools for effective line busting. While that method may allow customers to give their orders faster, your staff still needs to enter orders into the POS and process payments.

Without the added efficiency from handheld terminals like Toast Go, line busting could actually work against you. If three people working the counter end up all fighting over the two POS terminals for checkout, it could make things a lot messier.

2: Train Staff for Success

Some operators are concerned that a handheld tablet might impede restaurant hospitality, but it can actually enhance your guest experience. The key, though, is to have the right training.

When training your employees on line busting and your handhelds, ensure they don’t lose sight of your customer-centric, guest-delighting restaurant values. Normal eye contact and regular rapport are still critical, with handhelds being the tool to support their stellar customer service.

Additionally, make sure everyone knows when their time would be best spent working the line with tablets or working behind the counter. Have guidelines and best practices such as these established and clearly communicated:

  • Should operations shift to line busting when ten or more people are in the queue?
  • Do order takers need to specify tablets are for cards only as they work through the line?
  • Is line busting only from noon to 2 p.m. every day, or all the time?

Step 3: Start Line Busting

During your busiest hours, give workers a handheld. If your counter is wide enough, have a second line form for employees to call guests up, place their orders, and pay on the spot by card.

If your restaurant is small or has room for a single-file line, send a server to the middle of the line, where they can work their way down using the tablet to take orders.


You may have to staff up one or two more people to bust the line. But with the added revenue, the wages will likely pay for themselves several times over – especially during your busiest hours.


About Toast: Toast, a new CHECK® Business Tools partner, powers successful restaurants of all sizes with a technology platform that combines restaurant POS, front-of-house, back-of-house and guest-facing technology with a diverse marketplace of third-party applications. By pairing technology with an unrivaled commitment to customer success, Toast helps restaurants streamline operations, increase revenue and deliver amazing guest experiences. Toast was named to the 2019 Forbes Fintech 50, 2019 SXSW Interactive Innovation Finals, 2018 Forbes Cloud 100 and recognized as the third fastest-growing technology company in North America on the 2017 Deloitte Fast 500. Learn more about Toast by visiting POS and Restaurant Management Platform.