Recently, it seems I have seen a lot of restaurants bragging about being “smartphone-free zones,” encouraging patrons to instead talk to one another. While I wholeheartedly agree that a meal is time meant for sharing with your dining companion(s), banning smartphones in restaurants is simply bad business. Before I continue, I should clarify. I’m not talking about people yapping loudly on their phones — I’m talking about restaurants that are discouraging smartphone use for social media (primarily Instagram) while you’re in their establishment.
Last week, a NYC restaurant took to Craiglist on a rant. (Post has since been removed.) After receiving a series of bad reviews for slow service, the restaurant hired a firm to investigate. When they compared footage from 2004 to footage from 2014, they made some pretty startling discoveries…
We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years, we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same today as it was 10 years ago, the service just seems super slow even though we added more staff and cut back on the menu items…
One of the most common complaints on review sites against us and many restaurants in the area is that the service was slow and/or they needed to wait a bit long for a table.
We decided to hire a firm to help us solve this mystery, and naturally the first thing they blamed it on was that the employees need more training and that maybe the kitchen staff is just not up to the task of serving that many customers.
Like most restaurants in NYC we have a surveillance system, and unlike today where it’s a digital system, 10 years ago we still used special high capacity tapes to record all activity. At any given time we had 4 special Sony systems recording multiple cameras. We would store the footage for 90 days just in case we needed it for something.
The firm we hired suggested we locate some of the older tapes and analyze how the staff behaved 10 years ago versus how they behave now. We went down to our storage room but we couldn’t find any tapes at all.
We did find the recording devices, and luckily for us, each device has 1 tape in it that we simply never removed when we upgraded to the new digital system!
The date stamp on the old footage was Thursday July 1, 2004. The restaurant was very busy that day. We loaded up the footage on a large monitor, and next to it on a separate monitor loaded up the footage of Thursday July 3 2014, with roughly the same amount of customers as ten years before.
I will quickly outline the findings. We carefully looked at over 45 transactions in order to determine the data below:
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
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
We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there. But can you please be a bit more considerate?
And that’s when my head basically exploded. And here’s why:
1) Are you blaming your customer? Seriously? Seriously??? When a brand blames their customers for their problems, that tells me something. And I don’t mean something about their customers, I mean something about their internal culture and business practices. Your customers are not your problem, they’re the only thing keeping you in business. I feel confident that a proper audit would not only provide a cold, hard dose of reality, but would also reveal a wealth of underlying problems that exist within this restaurant. And I’d venture to guess none of them have to do with their diners. (Might be time to call Gordon Ramsay…)
2) Because 90% of consumers trust online recommendations from people they know. Instagram photos are free advertising. Only crazy people say no to free advertising. Which leads us to…
3) Brands with nothing to hide should not fear allowing their customers to drive the conversation. If you’re providing a consistently great product and creating a consistently great experience, you’re giving your customers a reason to say great things about you — be it in person, on Twitter or via Instagram.
I’m certainly not going to defend diners who spend their meal with their noses buried in the phones, but as a brand, you should want to see people sharing their food and experience on Instagram. When your customers share their experiences on social, they are communicating with each other. The only brands with something to fear are those who fall short. And that’s on you … not them.
- See more at: http://www.brainsonfire.com/blog/2014/07/17/banning-smartphones-smart-business/#sthash.oVy43yxN.dpuf