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Having adequate personal space is an important aspect of users’ comfort with their environment. In a restaurant, for instance, spatial intrusion by others can lead to avoidance responses such as early departure or a disinclination to spend. A web-based survey of more than 1,000 Americans elicited behavioral intentions and emotional responses to a projected restaurant experience when parallel dining tables were spaced at six, twelve, and twenty-four inches apart under three common dining scenarios. Respondents strongly objected to closely spaced tables in most circumstances, particularly in a “romantic” context. Not only did the respondents react negatively to tightly spaced tables but they were generally disdainful of banquette-style seating, regardless of table distance. The context of the dining experience (e.g., a business lunch, a family occasion) is likely to be a key factor in consumers’ preferences for table spacing and their subsequent behaviors. Gender was also a factor, as women were much less comfortable than men in tight quarters. The findings are clear but the implications for restaurateurs are not, because a tight table arrangement has been demonstrated to shorten the dining cycle without affecting spending. However, diners may be less likely to return to a restaurant with uncomfortable table spacing.


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