Many restaurant and café owners are tempted to squeeze in as many tables as possible in order to seat the maximum amount guests at the same time. But be careful − table spacing actually has a large impact on the comfort level of your guests.

Trying to maximise your revenue by… erh, I mean, aiming for a French style atmosphere with intimate feel?

Hold it right there. And remember: In the Western culture, people usually prefer their personal space to be at least 45 cm.

Seating parties at the right table size is one of the cornerstones of efficient restaurant management. But research actually shows us that when couples are seated at four-tops, the satisfaction ratings are even higher. They also seem to spend more and stay longer. However, the increase in spending, researchers warn, “doesn’t appear to be enough to offset the lost revenue from inefficient seat utilization”. Either way – something to keep in mind!

Table spacing significantly affects customer satisfaction.

Table spacing significantly affects customer satisfaction. In fact, in one study, guests at tightly spaced tables expressed lower satisfaction with everything from food quality to service levels. They were also less likely to return.

We turned to our revenue management expert Brita Moosmann at Yield for profit. She says it’s to some extent a matter of branding and image.

“First, you have to decide what kind of place you want to be. Tight spacing can work for fast-food places or during busy lunch hours. Also, in some trendy restaurants people want to be seen, and it should almost be a bit crowded and uncomfortable.”

That being said, Brita Moosmann believes that best strategy is to be flexible.

“Some restaurants can be both – they are very crowded for openings, during brunch or at events. But typically people want more comfort, so go for a flexible seating strategy. Maybe you can store alternative table tops in the back? You can use large boards that go on top of other tables – that way Chinese restaurants can turn a table for four into a dim sum party for 12. Or else, well-designed mobile room dividers can work really well to create more private seating space when needed.”

So. Where should you draw the line when it comes to table spacing?

“Look at your online ratings. There is a close correlation between customer comfort, online ratings and the level of advance bookings.”

 

This is the fourth and final post in our Revenue Management 101 series. Did you miss any of the first three posts? We’ve covered the topics of how to price your menu, how to set a seating strategy for your restaurant and how to know when you should upsell and when you shouldn’t.