Ramadan is a challenging time for restaurants. Trade can drop by between 30% and 60% during the day time, with many restaurants finding it challenging for both the kitchen and service staff to cope with the demands of serving a full restaurant within the same few minutes at iftar time. Here is an insight into what happens behind the scenes to help you have a good experience when you eat out this Ramadan.

Reduced trade

Bea Vo, CEO at Feed Your Soul, who runs Stax Diner, Boondocks, The Famous Flames and Butterscotch Bakery says trade can reduce by up to 60% during the first two weeks. Customers start coming in more during the evenings as people get used to fasting, have more energy, and are able to venture out more for dinner. Bea’s theory is that everyone is busy visiting family for the first few days, and then return to going out to restaurants after that. Reduced trade is a challenge in itself, and there is more for Restaurant Managers to think about when it comes to service and trends during Ramadan.

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Trends during Ramadan

According to The Meat Co, guests will tend to order a larger amount of food as they enjoy sharing food around the table. They will order more side dishes and starters to share. People are also ordering larger steaks and t-bones, reflecting a larger quantity of food in one meal. At their London branch, fewer people give themselves time for dessert, tea and coffee since the sun sets quite late in the UK.

Demanding customers

To deal with the intense demand at iftar time, some restaurants are implementing a pre-order booking system to ensure that people get their food on time. Both Boondocks and BIRD have bookings available online so that diners can pre pay and choose from options on a special Ramadan set menu when they arrive. On the other hand, for fast food restaurants like Fatburger UK, the message is ‘no need to pre-book’. To keep the same quality food as quickly as usual, Arif Hussein at Fatburger UK makes sure there are extra staff in the evenings to cope with the increased demand, which peaks fifteen minutes before iftar, till an hour afterwards. “Every year we learn things, and this is now our third Ramadan. We’re pretty confident we can provide a great experience with Fatburger quality food.” says Arif.

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Fasting staff

Many chefs and wait staff will be fasting too, and their challenge is to serve others before serving themselves. Tania Rahman from the brilliant Indian street food restaurant Chit Chaat Chai in Wandsworth says that her team always make time to eat together. After serving customers iftar, staff let customers know that they will be taking a quick break to eat something, and they do this together, creating a great atmosphere that will keep them going of the busy service ahead of them.

Choices, choices

If a full restaurant of diners ordered unique menu choices, to be delivered at exactly 9.34pm (or whatever iftar time is on the day!), the kitchen would be overwhelmed. To keep things running smoothly and to prevent delays, many restaurants provide Ramadan set menus. BIRD includes wings, a choice of burgers or chicken & waffles, their legendary doughnuts for dessert and a soft drink. Boondocks start with nachos, cajun popcorn and date cookies along with a wide range of their famous burgers, a choice of dessert and a drink. Band of Burgers offer dates, stuffed potato skins, a healthy salad, and then a portion of wings with a burger, fries and a drink before a weekly dessert special. All three of these can be booked online by tapping on the restaurant name above. Providing a decent but smaller range of options means that the restaurant’s kitchen can be prepared to make many more portions than they usually would in a short space of time.

Opening times

Restaurants will try and turn tables several times during the course of an evening. While halal conscious diners come in for iftar at around 9pm, restaurants may not be able to serve another set of diners since firstly halal conscious diners have only just eaten their meal by 10.30pm and aren’t hungry, and secondly, most restaurants close by 11pm, before Taraweeh prayers are over and people get hungry again. Some restaurants will try and stay open later to deal with this issue. Fatburger UK in Wembley will be open till midnight on weekdays, 1am over the first couple of weekends and 3am for the last two weekends to serve their halal conscious diners, turning tables two or three times a night.

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Tips for ensuring you don’t need to wait for your food

1. Book a table and arrive on time. At The Meat Co, “Leading up to Iftar time we have a greater influx of guests around 30-45 minutes before. At times we can be forced to delay bringing people into the restaurant at sunset for around 20 minutes due to the high level of demand.” Don’t be caught out without a booking.

2. Decide what you want to eat and get your order in early.

3. If you’re ordering in, place your order around an hour before iftar to make sure the restaurant has enough time to both make and deliver your food in time.

4. Remember the spirit of Ramadan. While some us are privileged enough to be waiting for our food at a restaurant, many more around us will not be able to afford food. See the Feed Our World campaign here, and remember that food poverty exists both at home and abroad.

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