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Is your product worth waiting for?

Food and beverage operators need to ensure customers' waiting process is as pleasant an experience as possible

It seems as if queueing is almost part of the Singapore culture - we're happy to queue for things we know will be worth the wait.

When McDonald's first launched its Hello Kitty collection as part of its meal offering in early 2000, long queues were a common sight. Even after more than a decade, the frenzy continues.

Last year, two local hawker stalls became overnight sensations after Michelin Guide Singapore announced that they had each been awarded a Michelin star. The announcement was soon followed by long lines and a great deal of buzz surrounding the stalls.

In both cases, the queues eventually became more reasonable after the hype died down. What happens then, when a wait is inevitable?

In the 2017 Q3 Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore study of the food and beverage (F&B) sector, it was found that longer waiting times were associated with lower satisfaction and loyalty among respondents.

The F&B landscape has changed with the emergence and proliferation of online food delivery companies such as Deliveroo, FoodPanda and UberEATS, catering services, and the use of online reservation platforms such as Chope, HungryGoWhere and Quandoo.

This has given diners a wide variety of options for food, with a high degree of convenience.

The ease and immediacy of these services, combined with hectic lifestyles and possibly longer working hours, may have inadvertently shifted something in the psyche of consumers. Do they now expect food service to be as immediate as well?

While anecdotally we have all heard of customers who would be willing to wait 30 minutes or even up to an hour for experiences they deem to be "worth it", this is more an exception rather than the norm.

While people understand and accept that waiting is part and parcel of the experience of eating out, they become increasingly frustrated if the waiting time is longer than what they are prepared to accept, or if the experience is unpleasant.

MOBILITY

One of the ways to make waiting not feel like waiting is to give your consumers mobility while they are waiting to be served. This includes adopting an SMS queue management system, akin to what the banking sector has adopted.

Another way to optimise waiting time is to allow customers who are in line to pre-order their food and drinks so that by the time they are seated, their order would arrive shortly.

As patience is tested by the perception of long waiting times, it is human nature to be a little more expectant when it comes to service.

F&B operators should bear this in mind and ensure that at the end of the wait, customers would be met by service staff who are attentive, able to meet their needs and be professional in the interaction.

Nothing would affect an experience with a brand more negatively than a double whammy of a long wait for an order that ends with bad service.

The writer is executive director, Institute of Service Excellence at Singapore Management University. This article appeared in The Business Times last Friday.

BUSINESS & FINANCE