Juliet D'cruz

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There always appears to be a conflict in the hospitality sector between restaurateurs’ drive to maximise profit, customers’ space requirements, and what they consider a comfortable environment to dine in.

According to a Cornell University study, what customers consider a fitting room differs from what restaurateurs consider adequate space. Tightly placed restaurant tables are well-known for minimising the time customers spend in the restaurant without reducing their expenditure, raising the day’s turnover rate. However, due to the proximity of the tables, some customers will avoid returning to the restaurant in the future.

The study then polled 1,000 Americans about their table spacing preferences and the impact on future behaviour. Many restaurateurs “play” with this spacing to maximise sitting capacity, not necessarily realising that it has the potential to discourage clients from returning to their location.

Many restaurant operators overlook that their customers frequently seek more than simply food. They are looking for a whole eating experience, which includes excellent food and a comfortable ambience in which people can converse and spend quality time with friends, family, or business acquaintances. That means privacy and appropriate space between tables are required (as seen in the image below).

The question is, what precisely is appropriate space? The response depends on the type of dining experience requested and the customer’s cultural background.

 As a result, restaurant owners must get to know their consumer base and design their restaurant floor plan and layout accordingly. As an example:

  • People demand more remarkable personal space when out on a date and want not to be overheard or swamped by other diners. The same is true for business meetings.
  • Lunch breaks and family dinners demand less room.
  • Teenagers who are used to eat at fast food restaurants will feel more at ease with less space between tables.
  • People who eat out frequently are more comfortable in restaurants with smaller tables than those who eat out less often.
  • In general, couples preferred banquets with parallel tables to meals. However, this structure has less influence when people go for lunch during workplace breaks.

The modern restaurant design modules space the tables 12″ or less apart on average. This environment, while preferred by restaurant owners, is not selected by their customers. The capacity to make simple restaurant furniture and layout adjustments “on the fly” is one feasible middle ground between those two competing goals. Suppose office workers frequent a restaurant at lunchtime but also want to attract evening patrons. In that case, one possible way to achieve customer satisfaction and maximise revenue is to slightly change the spacing between tables after lunch rush hour and before evening diners arrive.

Evening visitors will feel more at ease and more likely to return to the restaurant if a few tables are removed to increase the spacing. This means that, even if the restaurant has fewer diners on any one evening, it will eventually earn more recurring customers and will have to spend less time and money on promotions. It will also garner more positive client feedback (provided that the food and service standards remain high).

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In conclusion, a fast food or take-out restaurant where seating isn’t as important will be alright with their current arrangement of densely placed tables. However, as mentioned earlier, the study and its conclusions may have significant ramifications for restaurant managers and owners who have long-term plans for a successful restaurant that will serve more than one sort of consumer during its running hours. That is why the ability to easily and quickly adjust the spacing of your restaurant tables during the day is critical to the long-term viability of such a facility.