No, You Can't Fit Another Table There

No, it’s not just you: Diners are happier at bigger tables spaced far apart, a Cornell Hospitality Report reveals. Researchers from the Center for Hospitality Research spent two months studying “an 80-seat, full-service restaurant” in Soho that also served a prix fixe menu (any ideas as to which one?) and found that customers who sat at right-size tables — two people at a deuce — “spent less per person ($58.35) than did those seated at a larger table ($67.98).” People who were ostensibly more comfortable hung around longer than did those at smaller tables, but only by 8.65 minutes. But space matters more than size in terms of general enjoyment of your meal. Diners who sat at tables no more than twenty inches apart “generally expressed lower satisfaction in almost every category,” the study noted, including service, food, and whether the restaurant was a “wise choice” for dinner. Diners who sat at closely spaced tables were also the least likely, no matter what the table size, to say they would return to the restaurant or recommend it to others. And while they spend more per minute than diners who sit at tables spaced farther apart, they are in a bigger hurry to get out of that claustrophobic space. Moral of the story: You can force people to sit at tiny tables, but you shouldn’t force them to sit at a tiny table less than twenty inches away from another tiny table.

Diners Are Dissatisfied with Close-Set Tables, Warns Cornell Restaurant Research Study [Cornell School of Hotel Administration via National Restaurant Association]

Read more posts by Aileen Gallagher

Filed Under: center for hospitality research, cornell, restaurant psychology

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