How restaurants can cater to window shoppers


On Saturday, I tried out a new 24-hour breakfast place. As the hostess led us to our table, we walked past numerous empty booths and tables near the front of the restaurant, and found ourselves deep in the bowels of the venue. I politely rejected this location, and asked for a booth instead. The hostess then gave us a nice booth near the front, and all was well.

Here’s what I’m wondering: why seat people in back when there’s space in front? More specifically, the restaurant should be filling tables by the windows first, then the ones that are a bit further in, and so on. If you shoehorn all the customers into the back of the dining room, the place looks empty from the outside, even if it’s actually quite active inside.

By keeping a steady supply of customers seated near the windows, you’ll attract a lot more of the window shoppers who are on the fence about eating there, along with people who just stumble past the place by chance. The logic is simple: take the customers you already have, seat them in plain view of the folks outside, and more people will come inside to eat. If some of those people ask for a table in the back, fine. But for those who don’t have a preference, you’re much better off placing them near your windows, entrance, or any other location that’s highly visible from the outside looking in.