Food and Beverage

Turning the Tables - Cornell study finds unexpected connection between table characteristics and restaurant spending

A study published by Cornell University found that the 'best table' from a guest’s point of view may not be the best for the restaurant owner. The conclusion comes from analyzing the relationship between table location and customers’ spending habits.

Cornell Center For Hospitality Research The study, written by Cornell Hotel School professors Sherri Kimes and Stephani K.A. Robson, was published in the current issue of the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly (November 2004).

The study, conducted at a Mexican-style restaurant in suburban Phoenix, sought to determine the effects of table placement on guests' spending levels. The study compared average check and meal duration at tables with architectural anchors (notably walls) with those in exposed locations, such as in heavy traffic areas.

Testing such table types as banquettes, booths, and those next to interior windows, the study found that anchored tables showed no greater spending per minute than the average of all tables. In fact, customers lingered in banquettes, while they hurried through their meals at exposed tables. But average checks were about the same at both types of tables.

As a result, because guests took longer in banquettes, their spending per minute was lower. By the same token, since average duration was lower at exposed tables, spending per minute was higher. The seating pattern at the table (whether guests were opposite or side-by-side) had no statistical effect. Since this study covers only one restaurant, the implications are tentative, but it seems that designers might want to examine the use of banquettes and not expend exceptional effort to avoid exposed tables. "The main goal for a restaurant designer should be creating a comfortable environment for the guest, but if that can be done while also maximizing the restaurant's revenue potential, so much the better," says Robson.

The article can be accessed at:

Sherri Kimes, Ph.D. is a professor and also the Richard J. and Monene P. Bradley Director for Graduate Studies and Stephani K.A. Robson is a lecturer at Cornell's School of Hotel Administration.

The Cornell HRA Quarterly (CQ) is the premier journal of applied research serving hospitality practitioners and scholars. The award-winning CQ is published by The Center for Hospitality Research at the Cornell Hotel School. For more information on the CQ, see:

About The Center for Hospitality Research

A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors groundbreaking research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. The CHR also publishes the award-winning Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administrative Quarterly. Under the lead of CHR's 35 corporate supporters, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operational issues.

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