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We’re in quite the predicament right now. As the country reopens, businesses are struggling to fill millions of job openings. This labor shortage is causing a long line of problems—and one of the biggest issues is just that—long lines and wait times for customers.

Recent reports show that businesses are losing up to 75% of their customers due to long wait times.1

How to Reduce Waiting Times for Customers

1. Find Creative Ways to Occupy Your Customers

No matter the industry—no customer wants to wait in line. While wait times may be inevitable for your business, the secret is to make customers feel more proactive while waiting—this gives the illusion that the wait time is shorter. Keeping customers busy while waiting all starts with sharpening your queuing system. Luckily, there’s lots of ways to do this.

We often get the question, “How do I reduce my queuing time?”. Here’s a few examples we’ve shared:

In Food Retail:

Long wait times at the deli

Sample Stations
Queuing Solution:

Place sample stands close by deli lines for shoppers to nibble on new foods while waiting for their order to be sliced.

In Hospitality:

Long lines for hot breakfast

Grab-and-Go Options
Queuing Solution:

Put pre-made or grab-and-go items close by. Although guests may be in line, they’ll have a wide variety of readily available food to choose from.

In Food Service:

Short staffing & customers waiting

Increased Absences
Queuing Solution:

Display QR codes at tables for guests to view the menu—this makes customers feel productive while they wait.

2. Automate Every Day Tasks

Customer Using Kiosk
Did you know: Customers are only willing to wait for 14 minutes before being served.2

When it comes to your business, customers don’t have much tolerance for delays. So, one of the easiest and most effective solutions to start implementing is finding tactical ways to automate everyday tasks. Because, at the end of the day, it really is all about working smarter, not harder.

Here’s a few examples of everyday tasks that can be automated.

  • Invest in machines/automatic products (meat slicers, food processors, etc.)—it pays off in the long run
  • Consider upgrading your equipment (e.g. A bigger dishwasher washes more dishes!)
  • Introduce self-service to customers—think self-serve kiosks or checkout stations

3. Under Promise and Over Deliver

Nobody, especially customers like waiting for something longer than what they’ve been promised. Set clear expectations and be upfront with your customers if there’s a longer than usual wait time. Most importantly—and we can’t stress this enough—under promise and over deliver.

This doesn’t mean lying to or misleading customers, it simply means finding flexible ways to work around being short-staffed. Here’s a prime example we give to our food retailers who use online click and collect shopping methods:

2 Hours

The amount of time it takes your team to fill an online pickup order

3-5 Hours

Give your customers a window for 3-5 hours later to pick up their order


• Shoppers get the flexibility to choose a convenient pick-up time
• Your short-staffed team has more time to prepare


if orders are completed early, let your customer know! It will appear like they had less of a wait time.

4. Communicate with Customers (Even If It’s Bad News)

Communicate with CUSTOMERS

It’s never easy to deliver bad news to customers on longer wait times, out-of-stock products, and unavailable services. However, HubSpot recently researched customer’s true feelings on transparency, honesty, and overall customer service. Here’s what they found:

If a company’s customer service is excellent, 78% of consumers will do business with a company again even after a mistake.3

The kicker to this stat? This study was conducted in 2021, smack dab in the middle of a labor shortage. This info is telling of one thing—customers are more forgiving of mistakes or waiting in lines if you’re upfront and honesty from the get-go. Looks like it still remains true—honesty really is the best policy.

Account Development Managers

Meet Hubert

Only Hubert delivers the expertise and products to solve complex challenges like overcoming the labor shortage, driving more food sales, and creating a memorable experience for customers.

For 75 years we’ve helped many industries—including hospitality, education, food retail, healthcare, retail, and more—overcome these unique challenges with our expertise and line of products, including displayware, display fixtures, décor, signage, bar & beverage, food prep equipment, large commercial equipment, ice machines, merchandisers, and back of the house equipment.

Want to learn more? Talk to an expert.