Case Study: NYC Restaurant    


This case study is based on a New York City (NYC) restaurant owner who posted her dilemma on Craigslist, and now a couple of online newspapers have picked it up, so it is also circulating on Facebook.  Despite the patrons equaling the same number as 10 years earlier, online reviews shared that this particular restaurant (as well as others in the immediate vicinity) has slow service and the wait time to be seated is somewhat long.

The restaurant’s owner response was to 1) add staff, 2) reduce menu items; 3) hire a firm to investigate the difference in Customer Satisfaction from 10 years prior.  The firm examined surveillance video tapes of 45+ transactions and collected the following data.

July 2004 July 2014
3 out of 45 patrons request to sit elsewhere. 18 out of 45 patrons request to sit elsewhere.
Patrons avg 8 mins to order. Phones come out before patrons open menu. Patrons begin to take photos, work phone, etc.
2 out of 45 patrons send items back 7 out of 45 patrons spend an avg of 5 mins asking the servers to help them connect to Wi-Fi.
Patrons finish, get check, and leaveServer checks twice to see if patrons are ready to order, but patrons are still working the phone and request more time.
AVG time from start to end: 1 hour; 5 mins. Patrons avg 21 mins to order.
26 out of 45 patrons spend an avg of 3 mins snapping photos of the food.
14 out of 45 patrons spend an avg of 4 mins take photos of each other.
9 out of 45 patrons send the food back to reheat.
27 out of 45 patrons ask the server to take a group photo.  14 of these ask for a retake.
Patrons review the photo and chat for avg 5 mins.
Most patrons spend an avg of 20 mins in between end of meal and requesting check.
Patrons avg 15 mins longer to pay & leave.
8 out of 45 patrons bump into other patrons/server from texting while walking.
AVG time from start to end: 1 hour; 55 mins.

Upon viewing the data collection, the restaurant owner comes to this conclusion: “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?” (emphasis added)

This is a cross-cultural dilemma…both parties (i.e. restaurant owner & patrons) have different expectations based off of their previous experience.  They are both operating off of out-dated data.  The bottomline here is: consumer behavior has shifted.  To request consumers to be “more considerate” is futile.  It is not up to the consumer to shift their behavior, even though their behavior is working against them receiving the same level of service as before.  The owner expects this “new breed” of customer to revert back to a customer that is nearly extinct.  The owner needs to evolve and strategize to accommodate modern-day patrons, as though she has moved her business to another country.

Weisbord’s 6-Box Model

Here is what the restaurant can do to turn a table faster, raise their customer satisfaction back to 2004 levels, and get reviews that will signal to others to offer their patronage: ask itself questions in six different areas as to how to strategically address this emergent consumer.

Purpose.  What business are we in?  Employee involvement and clear communication about the direction/mission must be provided.

E.g. We are in the business of serving hot, delicious food in an efficient manner for a pleasing customer experience, according to their expectations.

Anything outside of this faux mission statement would not work.

  • Servers wear buttons that they may not take group photos.

Structure.  Form follows function.  What is the process flow?

  • Seat patrons in cell phone use and non-cell phone use areas (much like the old smoking and non-smoking designated areas).  Clearly state that the cell phone use area has an extended dining time experience.

Relationships.  How is performance managed?

  • A sample appetizer could be served upon submitting an order.

Helpful Mechanisms.  How can we streamline processes?  Automate systems?

  • Orders are taken before being seated with technology that goes straight to the kitchen.
  • Use the Square to have patrons pay the bill at the table electronically.  This saves the server return visits for payment.

Rewards. How do we balance rewards and consequences?

  • Square software can also automatically attach a Survey Monkey link for a How-Did-We-Do survey, which would gift patrons with a free dessert upon their next visit.
  • Metrics performed can be of data collection on Social Media sites, such as Yelp.  This means that this particular restaurant’s star ratings shall go up, and its new strategy deployment of its own behavioral change to meet marketplace demands shall increase its competitive advantage against other restaurants.

In summary, the advent of technology has changed the way we interact with each other.  We cannot turn back the clock.  To remain competitive, businesses must leverage their competitive advantage in tandem with technology.  Manage the change effectively, and you have Change Management.

Bon Appétit!


Rossina Gil, Karel Kreshek, and Gordon Brooks are Leadership and Organization Development Practitioners with a boutique consultancy of OD experts, Corporate Looking Glass.  Visit us at

© Rossina Gil, 2014


Added May 2015:

New York’s La Guardia airport has added a few hundred such monitors as I recommended in this blog.  It allows you to order the food, read about the ingredients, call for wait staff assistance, and check on your flight.  Here is a picture I took:



About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on July 21, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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