Restaurateurs may be tempted to speed up the pace of their customers' meals during busy periods in a bid to increase table turns. While selling more covers should boost revenues, a study of restaurant patrons finds that strategies aimed at reducing dining time should be applied carefully. By dividing a dining experience into three segments, one can assess the effects of duration-reduction efforts at each point in the process. On balance, restaurant patrons do not want to feel that they are being rushed nor do they want to be unduly delayed. Indeed, it is the perception of the speed (or lack thereof), rather than the actual time spent dining, that carries the most weight with restaurant patrons. If a perceived wait is longer than what guests expected, their satisfaction is likely to diminish, along with their assessment of the server's abilities and their likelihood to return. By the same token if a meal proceeds at a tempo much faster than expected, diners will feel rushed and will conclude that their server is not willing or able to attend to their needs. In particular, restaurants should approach the actual meal, that is, the in-process stage of the dining experience, with care. On the other hand, the pre-process stage, when guests are ordering drinks and reading the menu, and the post-process stage, when guests are receiving and settling the check, can be hastened in certain situations. The study found that patrons in casual and upscale casual restaurants are more willing to accept duration-reduction strategies than are patrons of fine-dining restaurants, where an appropriate pace is essential to satisfaction.
Noone, B., & Kimes, S. E. (2005). Dining duration and customer satisfaction [Electronic article]. Cornell Hospitality Reports, 5(9), 6-15.