On restaurants and smartphones

A fascinating piece of unintentional research from a US restaurant that I think shows a lot about different mindsets to changing user habits, especially their concluding actions.

Essentially, the restaurant compared security tapes from now versus 10 years ago to work out why their service appeared to be slower. Their discovery showed that service times were drastically slowed by the use of smartphones - people playing on them when they first arrived, so taking longer to order, and lots of picture taking, that often necessitated food being reheated.

All of which are great and powerful insights. The restaurant's response? To post their findings on Craigslist and asking all diners to be more considerate of their staff, business and other customers and not to use their phones so often.

To me, that feels like the wrong move (although it also involves the depressing acceptance that we'd rather spend time on our phones than eating or speaking. But that's by the by).

If these phone habits are ingrained in the customer, no amount of pleading - or even measures like banning or confiscating phones - is going to make a difference. Chances are service time will continue to get slower and reviews will get worse, even if the food itself is excellent.

A smarter move would be to see how aspects of the restaurant - from phone bookings to photography could be worked into the overall aspect of the service. Odd as it may seem, having waiters offer to take photos of both the food and the diners, for example, could shave off precious minutes.

Some may call it disruption, I'd probably say it's closer to solving a problem the audience didn't really know existed. Food is such a visual, inherently shareable experience, especially online, that it's a surprise many more restaurants don't attempt to play to these strengths.