Order Timing Priority

Here’s a tricky one that those who do a lot of dine in may help out.

We do dine in (casual and not in huge numbers), take out ( majority of sales) and delivery.

Delivery is no problem with time as we have set times for each delivery zone for quiet and busy times based on actuals over the years. Take out is based on orders at hand which the make bench tell the order people how longs will be at any stage, be it slow or through to ultra busy.

Dine in is where the grey area comes in. We get a number of people come in for a meal before they go to the movies at the cinema a couple doors away in the shopping centre we are in. On both Friday and Saturday we had people come in for dine in right in the busiest part of the night when we were being slammed and wait time was around 40 - 50 minutes expecting to get served and have their meal within 15 minutes because they had a movie to see. Normally we bring dine in orders closer up front ahead of orders already taken but when times are out to what they were and having a shop full of people who had ordered and were patiently waiting the time there was no way we could bring these orders forward without having a riot on our hands. Consequently we lost a few orders.

The question is. Do you bring dine in orders forward at the expense of take out or delivery, and if so by how much?

I love having the place full of dine in customers as it shows the shop as being busy, especially to people walking past either going to or coming from the movies. It also gives that expectation factor to those who may not have tried us before … “hey this place looks the goods”. But where do you balance out having people dining in ahead of earlier placed orders and not offending those who have waited patiently for their order?

Do you expedite dine in orders or do they just wait the same time as all other orders?

Unfortunately for us we are hindered by only having a single MM PS360 where we can make the orders fast enough but have a jam at peak times at the oven. Due to being on a month to month lease at the moment we can’t invest in another oven without the security of a long term lease. Plus the logjam is normally only for a 2 - 3 hour period on Friday and Saturday nights.

Any suggestions welcomed, especially by dine / delco operators.


During a normal dinner we do between 60% and 70% dine in.

Generally speaking, dine-ins take priority over pick up and delivery, but there can’t be a set rule about it. You may quote a pickup 25 minutes and then have 7 dine-ins come in. You can’t put all of the dine-ins in front of it. Or you may have a delivery ticket print that goes with another order already on the make line. In that case you may want to put the delivery in front of the dine-ins. We’ll also slow a dine-in down a bit and put other orders in front of it if the guests have an appetizer. Knowing they’ll get their appetizer first gives us an extra 7 or 8 minutes on their pizza.

It’s a delicate balancing act during a rush and it takes a good expediter handling the tickets. He should know everything that’s going on inside the store - what times the pickups and deliveries were quoted, how big the line is at the front counter for dine-in, what deliveries ride together, etc.

If I were in your situation, I would start extending my pick up times before it gets busy with the moviegoers. You know it’s coming and you’re going to have to push the dine-ins ahead.

We often do that on Friday and Saturday nights. When the phones start ringing at a steady pace we extend the pickup times to 35 minutes or so. We may end up holding that ticket for a while, but we do it just in case we have a bunch of dine-ins walk in the door.

You can also dedicate a cook to dine-in orders only. He’ll keep pushing those out while the rest of the crew works the pick up and delivery orders. We tried that a few times though, and it ended with mass confusion.

I know this isn’t what you want to hear but the time has come to invest in the second oven. You’ve been worried about the lease for too long and letting this affect your business. In my mind, 50 minutes is WAY too long to quote either customer, pick up or dine in(delivery as well for that matter). Maybe you don’t spend the money for another Middleby 360 but get a smaller Lincoln or even a deck oven to cook some of your ovenable appetizers.

Assuming a new oven won’t happen, I would look to find a way to produce more orders out of your single oven. Do you have items that you run through twice or 1.5 times? If so you may need to consider changing your menu to eliminate these. Which is more important, a varied menu or fast service? I know what works for me. How large is your largest pizza? If over 16" you will end up with wasted space on you conveyor belt if staggering multiple pizzas. If oven capacity was an issue for me, my 18" pizza would be removed from my menu. What about unused space on your conveyor belt currently? Are you staffed well enough to make every inch of belt productive during these rush periods? What about speeding up the cook time?

In short, while I know many on this board will disagree with me, but I believe waiting nearly an hour for pizza is too long no matter how you get the pizza. I wouldn’t look to which I should prioritize but how do I keep any customer from having to wait this long. Unfortunatly the correct answer to this dilemma is the answer you’re not willing to do without a lease. At some point though I feel you need to really look at getting the new oven lease or no lease. It’s costing you customers and profits to not have it.

we have delivery, take-out, and dine-in…our POS is able to prioritize orders based on type. We have preset promise times that are updated based on our current wait. All dine-in orders are rushed and I manually instruct the makeline to make deliveries in the same area together.

i think this is one area that separates the men from the boys

Paul I agree wholeheartlty with you about getting the oven but unfortunately here in Australia we don’t get things anywhere near as cheap as you guys do in the US. For example a 2nd hand non refurbished gas oven would come out at around $12 - $15K, a refurbished $20K and an new on $25K. Gas is our only option as an electric one (a lot cheaper than gas to purchase) would require extensive overhaul of our electrical board which is maxed out now.

Our lease situation is month to month until the owners of the centre decide what is going on re-development wise. Investing mega $$ in equipment knowing that there is the option for the owners to say we are out in a months time is not a good financial situation for us to be in. Top it off at the moment there is no leaseable or purchasesable properties available within 5km of where we are so moving is not an option. This then makes our shop a prime spot for our owner to either kick us out, re-new the lease at exhorbinant rent increase or continue to drag us along on the monthly lease until they decide what they are doing. In this situation there is no way I am investing on new equipment, but in saying that when we get our new lease the following will be purchased immediately - additional oven, POS and new prep bench.

On the other comment about oven use your sentiments about 18" size is exactly what we are doing, dropping it. It seems every time we slammed we get an order for 3 x 18" which just jam up the oven. At other times the oven is going at full capacity, with full use of every bit of space. Nothing goes through more than once, cook time is 7 minutes and this won’t change as there is no way I will jeopardise quality for quantity. I run the rotation of orders, loading the oven and dictating times on Friday and Saturday peak nights so everything is a close to top notch as possible.

No problem about your comment saying I probably won’t like what you will say. I asked for advise and get the replies as they come, just like I give my thoughts out as well to others who ask. Only wish at times we had an abundant of leaseable properties around us so I could tell the owners where to shove their shop.


We normally will give priority to dine-in and people who come in and order in person for take-out. Probably 90% of our business is taken over the phone but we don’t want people to feel they can’t just pop in and order a pie on a whim because it would take too long.

As long as we are meeting our quoted times for delivery and phone-ins it is not a problem. The only time we don’t give priority is when we become “maxed out”. At this time anyone coming in can see how busy we are and understand the extended wait. The exception to this is when it is just something simple we can kick out real quick.

In my experience you really cannot have any hard set rules. i.e. sometimes it just makes more sense to kick some deliveries ahead to consolidate deliveries or not have a driver waiting.

When the dough is hanging from the ceiling, there just don’t seem to be good answers. For us, it’s more art than science any night, but the full-on Friday shifts are the hardest. Zen pizza management in the make line. We do prioritize dine-ins and walk-in deliveries as much as possible. Always dine-in appetizers move a bit forward, though not too far up. I mesh them in wherever it makes sense. Sometimes we end up dragging several orders back at one time due to a bad decision, but we mostly work out okay.

One thing we are able to do is bang out an appetizer if the delay gets really long. Put something in their mouths to show we care and to keep their appetites from making anger. Wife and I are the ones who make that call. If it looks like we will be over 30 minutes getting a pie to the table (YIKES!), we throw out some fried ravioli to tide them over. NO oven stress, and only 2.5 minutes in fryer. Food cost about $1.10 to keep a customer happy.

We find that communication and letting them know what to expect will buy a LITTLE time that you would not get otherwise. Order takers HAVE to understand the kitchen status and prepare the customer for the times . . . and suggest/upsell an appetizer that could tide them over. Servers let us know when customer is antsy, and we move what we can.