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Texting At The Restaurant

Texting Diners

Managers at a New York City restaurant were puzzled as to why the speed of service in their restaurant seems to have slowed down in recent years despite the fact that they had not experienced any significant increase in customers. So, when they came across old videotapes of security footage of the restaurant during a normal day in 2004, they decided to compare it today.

Here’s what they found:

2004:

Customers walk in.

They gets seated and are given menus, out of 45 customers 3 request to be seated elsewhere.

Customers on average spend 8 minutes before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.

Waiters shows up almost instantly takes the order.

Appetizers are fired within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take longer.

Out of 45 customers 2 sent items back.

Waiters keep an eye out for their tables so they can respond quickly if the customer needs something.

After guests are done, the check delivered, and within 5 minutes they leave.

Average time from start to finish: 1:05

2014:
Customers walk in.

Customers get seated and is given menus, out of 45 customers 18 requested to be seated elsewhere.

Before even opening the menu they take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are simply doing something else on their phone (sorry we have no clue what they are doing and do not monitor customer WIFI activity).

7 out of the 45 customers had waiters come over right away, they showed them something on their phone and spent an average of 5 minutes of the waiter’s time. Given this is recent footage, we asked the waiters about this and they explained those customers had a problem connecting to the WIFI and demanded the waiters try to help them.

Finally the waiters are walking over to the table to see what the customers would like to order. The majority have not even opened the menu and ask the waiter to wait a bit.

Customer opens the menu, places their hands holding their phones on top of it and continue doing whatever on their phone.

Waiter returns to see if they are ready to order or have any questions. The customer asks for more time.

Finally they are ready to order.

Total average time from when the customer was seated until they placed their order 21 minutes.

Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take way longer.

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant.

Average time from start to finish: 1:55

Obviously, comparing two individual days doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend of any kind, but the extent to which technology has pervaded our lives is really quite apparent in this description. Indeed, it’s not uncommon from what I see on a regular basis what I’m at a neighborhood restaurant or bar. The part that is most confusing, perhaps, are group of people sitting at a table and, rather than talking to each other, they’re all on their cell phones or tablets. I often wonder who they’re talking to. Each other? Are they aware of this thing called talking? Also, I’m as technologically sophisticated as the next guy, but what’s with the fascination for posting pictures of your food on Twitter, Facebook, and Instgram? I’ve never understood that.

It’s a brave new world we live in.

Photo via The Huffington Post

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    This sets off my b.s. detector.

    First, how about opening up your WiFi so people aren’t asking for help to connect? That’s easy enough.

    Second, keep your online menus updated – including nutritional data – which is probably what people are Googling at the restaurant. It was a good idea to list nutritional data on menus, and a stupid idea to take it down thanks to pressure from the industry and libertarian types.

    More to the point though I simply do not trust these observations. They smell like the wrong cow product. I spend a lot of time in restaurants, probably eat out 250 times a year, and what I see is less active managers. Managers have to “work the floor” and when I was managing I not only worked the floor, I worked the hell out of it. Today you so rarely see a manager on the floor that it really stands out when you do.

    So, I suspect these “observations” carefully avoided the question of what contribution managers were making. If the manager is sitting at the bar or back in his office more than 10% of the open time, he/she is not doing the job.

    Here’s my simple test for a restaurant manager: if he has no knife scars on his hands, and cannot hold a hot plate fresh from the dishwasher for 30 seconds without dropping it, he shouldn’t be running a restaurant. If his shirt is always clean, he shouldn’t be running a restaurant. And if he thinks bussing a table is beneath him, he should be dragged out to the alley by the dumpster and beaten with spatulas.

    The problem with restaurants is always, always, always the management.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  2. anjin-san says:

    There is an old story about Ray Kroc touring a McDonalds with a regional VP. During the course of the tour, they walked right past a piece of trash on the floor. When Kroc asked the VP why he did not pick it up, he replied along the lines of “we have plenty of people to do that, it’s not really a my job.”

    The VP was gone the next day.

    You deserve a break today

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. M. Bouffant says:

    [W]hat’s with the fascination for posting pictures of your food on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? I’ve never understood that.

    Everybody (thinks) they’re a critic. These days they can expand their message beyond their fellow diners: “Look how clever I was to go to this restaurant w/ the beautiful presentation.”

    The part that is most confusing, perhaps, are group of people sitting at a table and, rather than talking to each other, they’re all on their cell phones or tablets. I often wonder who they’re talking to.

    One thing is, they may not have anything new to say to each other in person, having already overshared their lives w/ each other on social media.

    “Hey, what’s new?”

    “Uh, nothing I haven’t put on Facebook.”

    “Oh. O.K., let me check my ‘phone then.””

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. michael reynolds says:

    I often find myself at a restaurant with my wife and kids and all four of us on our iPhones. I have not found that it harmed conversation, since often the conversation includes items we are jointly seeing online. It does however cut down on the arguing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  5. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The problem with restaurants is always, always, always the management.

    Watching dozens of episodes of Kitchen Nightmares has really drilled this in. I’m lucky enough to have never had a food service job –Checking my privilege as I type!– but it really does seem to come down to a choice. Do I want to work for my money and make a lot of it? Or do I want to half-ass it and wonder why I’m almost bankrupt?

    That said…..people are obnoxious with their phones these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    One of the reasons I love Ramsay is that for all the manipulation and fakery involved in Kitchen Nightmares every now and then you see the honest outrage of a real restaurant guy, and it is almost always directed at lazy management.

    Do not go into the restaurant business unless you are willing to work 12 hour days and come home stinking of grease. It is not for the weak.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Do not go into the restaurant business unless you are willing to work 12 hour days and come home stinking of grease.

    I think I’d rather go crab-fishing in Alaska.

    Unless my restaurant had a bar. Then I’d be one of those lazy managers comping myself cocktails and wondering why no one likes my food.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. anjin-san says:

    Take it from me, people who like to drink should not work in bars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. CB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And if he thinks bussing a table is beneath him, he should be dragged out to the alley by the dumpster and beaten with spatulas.

    This gets all of the upvotes. ALL OF THEM.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. superdestroyer says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    I have always wonder if people are better at organizing their digital photographs than they were at organizing their analog photographs. At least when you got physical pictures back from developing, you would look at them again. How many people ever look at their digital photographs again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. anjin-san says:

    How many people ever look at their digital photographs again.

    Well, the people with interesting lives that do fun stuff probably do…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. superdestroyer says:

    @anjin-san:

    Where those the same people who kept very organized photopgraph albums in the old days? Somehow I doubt it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    @anjin-san:

    Well, the people with interesting lives that do fun stuff probably do…

    So, that’s me….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Tillman says:

    Also, I’m as technologically sophisticated as the next guy, but what’s with the fascination for posting pictures of your food on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? I’ve never understood that.

    Why did Renaissance artists paint still life portraits of food?

    That said, roughly half my Facebook feed is pictures of food other people are eating, and it annoys the crap out of me.

    @M. Bouffant:

    One thing is, they may not have anything new to say to each other in person, having already overshared their lives w/ each other on social media.

    “Hey, what’s new?”

    “Uh, nothing I haven’t put on Facebook.”

    From personal experience, my average conversation tends to start with, “Did you see my post on Facebook about X?” and it moves from there. It also helps that my cohort and I don’t put everything on social media. We have to remember that the popular depiction of social media addicts doesn’t capture how everyone uses it.

    I think most of my Facebook time is spent posting jokes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. DrDaveT says:

    Average time from start to finish: 1:55

    Of course, this whole idea that there is virtue in getting in and out quickly (if you’re the diner), or in being able to count on multiple seatings’ worth of revenue (if you’re the restaurateur), is an American thing.

    One of the delightful features of dining in Europe was the expectation that, unless you had theater tickets for later, the dinner was the evening’s entertainment. Our table was ours, for as long as we wanted it. No hurry.

    It was funny, though, watching other American diners turn purple trying to get someone to bring them a check so they could get on with their busy lives…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. KM says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Here’s my simple test for a restaurant manager: if he has no knife scars on his hands, and cannot hold a hot plate fresh from the dishwasher for 30 seconds without dropping it, he shouldn’t be running a restaurant. If his shirt is always clean, he shouldn’t be running a restaurant. And if he thinks bussing a table is beneath him, he should be dragged out to the alley by the dumpster and beaten with spatulas.

    Amen! I swear, I don’t have fingerprints left after picking up items from the Hot Bar. The newbies were always amazed at how the rest of us just blithely picked stuff up that was still steaming. I told them they’d learn or they’d be gone soon. I recently noticed renewed heat-sensitivity in my fingers and was unreasonably upset about it – my companion didn’t understand when I explained I was losing a hard-earned life skill and felt I was going soft.

    I had chefs that were “managers”. Honest-to-god chefs walking around the kitchen “directing” doing absolutely nothing while the rest of us were busting ass on busy days in pristine white jackets and not a burn mark in sight. They constantly wondered why we were behind and why the counter staff was doing ChopShop work instead of waiting on customers; we were constantly wondering if anyone would notice if they had a mysterious accident. Bad managers truly are a curse on a restaurant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @ Michael Reynolds and the others: I was in the wholesale produce and food service supplies business for 16 years in a past life and will have to agree with you that the successful restaurateurs that I knew were harder working than I was–and I worked too many 14 hour days in a business where everyone wanted to order merchandise tomorrow for delivery yesterday and never understood why there stuff didn’t get there just because a truck carrying it from Nogales was 16 hours behind schedule because of a breakdown.

    Oh those were the days…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0