Seating is a science. There are many aspects to take into consideration when designing your restaurant or café and clever seating can be the difference between failure and success.

Seating arrangement affects quite a lot if you think about it – meal duration, average spending, guest comfort levels and the likelihood of returning. Here are 5 things that scientific research has revealed:

Banquette tables make people stay longer

The classic banquette table is where one person sits by the wall and the other on an opposite chair. Research indicates that banquettes tables are scoring low on The Spending Per Minute (SPM), mainly because guests usually stay longer when seated at a banquette table.

Suggestion: Try to avoid banquette tables as much as possible. If you can’t avoid them, then try to increase upsells like desserts and an extra glass of wine after the dinner.

Large groups seated at banquette tables tends to stay longer than others. Here's (probably) an example of that.
Large groups seated at banquette tables tends to stay longer than others. Here’s (probably) an example of that.

Smaller parties could be better than large groups

Research shows that smaller parties spends more money per person than large groups. In addition to this, large groups also tends to stay longer. This makes the SPM a lot higher for smaller groups. With that being said, a 20 people reservation is always a 20 people reservation. Don’t be cocky and start rejecting large group reservations now!

Suggestion: Mix small parties and large groups as much as you can. If you know you have three big reservations for Friday, keep a couple of tables open for drop-in guests.

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Unsurprisingly, Don Draper’s favourite table is a booth.

Everyone <3 Booths

Customers seated at booths have been found to spend significantly more per person than those seated at other tables. But they also stay longer, so the SPM goes down. One advantage with booth seating is that it creates a sense of privacy which makes it the perfect seating for couples, close friends, business occasions etc. Keep that in mind for Valentine’s Day!

Suggestion: Try to create a more private and intimate feeling for certain tables in your restaurants – they don’t have to be booths.

“Bad tables” might not be so bad after all

In one study, guests at “bad tables” (for example close to the kitchen or toilets) spent just as much as the others, but stayed a shorter amount of time – which means a high SPM. The question is how satisfied they were with their stay.

Suggestion: It’s perfectly understandable that you want to squeeze in as many tables in your restaurant as possible, including next to the loo and entrance. But put yourself in your guests’ position: Would you like to be seated where you feel cold every time a guest walks through the door? Or disturbed by people lining up for the bathroom in the middle of your romantic dinner? Maybe, maybe not.

So what does the Revenue Management expert say about all this? Brita Moosmann at Yield for profit recommends that you try out a table mix that works for your business:

A better table mix that results in higher SPM during less frequented time periods, or reduces the meal duration during high-volume time periods, may result in significant revenue increases for the restaurant.

Exposed seating: not for everyone

An exposed seating is not preferable, especially if the guests feel like they’re living in a fishbowl. These guests tend to both spend less money and time in the restaurant. There are different ways of feeling uncomfortable.

Suggestion: Everyone’s different. Some people love being seated at a window table, others want privacy. Have a good mix of tables and always ask your guests if they’re okay with the table you chosen for them.

Brita Mossmann concludes her thoughts on seating strategies by adding: You always have to consider that these general findings may not apply to all restaurants and cafés – but knowing about these possible effects can help restaurant owners and management to pay more attention in planning the right mix for their establishment.