Restaurant owners may want to seat waiting guests in a way that improves revenue, rather than in the order in which they arrived…
Restaurant owners may want to seat waiting guests in a way that improves revenue, rather than in the order in which they arrived. A report published by The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell reveals that restaurant operators can circumvent the first-come, first-served etiquette, as long as they let customers know what method they use and the customers view that method as fair.
The report, Perceived Fairness of Restaurant Waitlist-management Policies, co-written by Cornell Professor Sherri Kimes, Ph.D., and Kelly McGuire, a Cornell Hotel School doctoral candidate, shows how 268 people responded to four seating policies designed to enhance revenue. The four policies are: seating guests according to party size; accepting reservations for large parties only; seating VIP guests in preference to others; and allowing guests to call ahead for placement on the waitlist for a specific seating time.
The study found:
- Priority seating by party size and call-ahead seating are viewed as relatively fair;
- Large-party reservations were seen as a neutral policy at best;
- VIP seating was considered to be essentially unfair.
One interesting finding was that fairness ratings were generally not influenced by whether a respondent gained the advantage of an earlier seating from a given policy , Kimes said. However, the likelihood of having customers return was greater when a particular demand-shifting policy gave the respondent the advantage of fast seating.
Restaurateurs should take note of this study, said Julie Flik, Executive Vice President, Compass Group. Restaurateurs should be wary of using VIP seating and other tactics that guests may perceive as unfair. The study shows that offering a clear explanation of a policy, particularly call-ahead seating and seating by party size, may assuage guests who would otherwise be unhappy.
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