FULL HOUSE — The Psychological Impacts of a Full Dining Room
Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking quite a bit about using various elements of environmental psychology to manipulate customer perception and experience, as well as a subtle(r) form of revenue management. From there we gradually segued into using atmospherics for the same. It’s been a wild ride, to be sure, but all good things must come to pass, at least for the time being.
Because today marks yet another pivot point for us. We’re going to use this post to transition from atmospherics into capacity management-type stuff. Which isn’t to say that we’ll never put on our behavioral geographer hats again (I like to imagine that these hats make us look like Ferdinand Magellan), because I still have at least a few topics that I want to cover; it’s just time (again!) for a change of scenery.
To ease us into this transition, I wanted to talk about the psychological impacts of having a full dining room.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACTS OF HAVING A FULL DINING ROOM
Let me preface this by saying, well, this: what follows is specific to table service operations. That isn’t to say that it isn’t also applicable to counter service ones, just that you have less control over the situation than your table service brethren.
Got it? Got it.
Here is a short list of reasons of why maintaining the appearance of a full dining room is good. Note that none of these reasons are directly related to money:
- At a distance, a full dining room is more enticing and increases approach behaviors. People are naturally drawn to activity, and a full dining room fits that bill.
- Psychologically, people like to have their choices validated by their peers. You feel a little more justified in your decision to eat somewhere that’s full of other like-minded patrons than you do sitting in a cavernous dining room by yourself. That’s always a little weird and can carry a “what the heck is wrong with this place” kind of vibe.
- Humans are social creatures, even if they want their privacy. We crave social contact, even if it’s indirect. Which means that even if we’d like to enjoy our meal in peace (perhaps with friends or family), we feel more comfortable doing so in a room full of other people. Weird, right?
- The increase in noise and stimulation is good for you because it can help subtly shorten meal duration while helping your customers meet their basic needs.
To this end, it’s a good idea to have some discrete spaces for customers to dine in. Having separate dining areas allows you to only use the space that you need as you need it, and in the process can create the illusion that you’re busier than you actually are doing slower periods. As you start to fill up one area, you can then open up the next, and so forth. In addition to all of the psychological reasons listed above, there are a couple of practical reasons for doing this as well:
- Concentrate your servers in one area. This allows them to not have to run all over the place, and as a result helps facilitate their increased attentiveness.
- Easier to keep clean, since people aren’t dropping crap all over the floors in far-flung corners of your restaurant.
Even counter service/QSR operations can get in on the act of having separate rooms to use in an overflow capacity as you get busier.
So that was just a short piece on how capacity can affect atmospherics and subsequent diner perceptions. Going forward over the next day or so, we’ll be talking about managing capacity and revenue along with it. As always, the awesome folks at Vanee Foods have some ideas that they’d like to share with you. Drop them a line and let them!