Express seating


While trying to kill some time before a movie last weekend, I wandered into a Starbucks that I had never seen before. I’m not sure how long this particular location has been there, but it’s on a busy corner with lots of foot traffic. When I went inside, I noticed that the seating area was quite small — and all the chairs were taken. Since the customers looked rather entrenched, I left and went elsewhere. This got me thinking: how should quick service restaurants respond when a small group of customers hogs all the seats?

The problem here is pretty clear. Some people go into cafes with their phone and laptop, and sit there for hours while only buying a few items. This prevents other customers like me from spending any money, even if we only want to sit down for 15 minutes. In many cases, no available seating equals no sales. But the restaurant can’t just throw out the first type of customer, since they tend to be loyal and return quite often.

My solution is quite simple, inspired by the way supermarkets handle their checkout lines. Just designate certain seating areas as “Express Seating”, and use the accompanying signage to provide guidelines of how long people can sit there. In most cases, 15 or 30 minutes should be ideal. Granted, this would rely on an honor system, since there’s no way the baristas are going to run around timing how long each person has been sipping their cappuccino. But even with only partial compliance, Express Seating should help make room for additional customers (and sales), while still providing unrestricted seating for those people who seemingly never leave.