Why Is Service Slow? The Answer Will Surprise You

For the first time in a long time, I’m taking two weeks off. From work, from blogging, and mostly from e-mail. I have a family reunion at the beach next week, followed by a week at a gaming conference. I’ll have limited internet access the whole time, and frankly, it’s important for me to focus on my family while I’m at the beach and my customers while I’m at the convention. So I’m going to be gone for a little while, but I’ll be back, and I hope you come back too. Here’s my last blog entry for a while:


This was going to be a food photo I took, but then I saw this photo of Biddy I took while packing today.
This was going to be a food photo I took, but then I saw this photo of Biddy I took while packing today.

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant as I did for a few summers during college, I think you’ll find this particularly interesting.

An expensive restaurant noticed that their service had slowed considerably over the last few years, and reviews on sites like Yelp were particularly vocal about it. The restaurant couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was going on, so they hired a consultant to review interior surveillance footage from 2004 to compare it to similar footage in 2014 to see what they found.

I’d recommend checking out the “article” (it’s more of an infographic) to see the full data, but here are the key parts from those two time periods that made the biggest difference. The data reflects the various stages starting when guests enter the restaurant and ending when they leave. (The following includes exact quotes from the article.)


  • Customers on average spend 8 minutes before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.
  • Blah blah blah, they eat, pay the check…average time from start to finish: 1:05


  • Before opening the menu, most customers take their phone and and do…stuff (the restaurant doesn’t monitor what they’re doing).
  • 7 out of the 45 customers in the footage asked waiters to come over to help them. The waiters then spend an average of 5 minutes helping those customers connect to the WiFi.
  • Customers continue to fiddle with their phones until they finally place their order. Average time before closing the menu: 21 minutes.
  • When food arrives, 26 our of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of their food. 14 customers take photos of each other with the food. This takes an average of 4 additional minutes.
  • 27 out of 45 customers asked the waiter to take a group photo with their camera phones. Then, 14 of those customers asked the waiter to retake the photo. This whole process adds another 5 minutes to the meal.
  • 8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or waiters while walking out of the restaurant because they were texting.
  • Average time from start to finish: 1:55

Okay. Deep breath. What the hell is happening to us as a society?!

Let me say this first: There’s nothing wrong with taking your time at a restaurant. When I go out to eat, I don’t like to feel rushed. I like to enjoy the company, and I don’t need much attention from the servers other than to take my order, deliver my food, and make sure my drink is full. I tip extremely well, mostly because I was a server and I know how much they put into their work.

I’m feeling a few things here. The first thing is that I’m sad that when people come together to spend lots of money on good food at this restaurant, they spend more time looking at their phones than looking at each other.

I don’t quite know what to feel about taking photos of food. I’ve done it, and I would definitely do it if I’m spending $40 on a filet that looks awesome. I don’t text or look at fantasy stats or e-mail or any of that when I’m at a restaurant, though. It just seems rude to everyone around me, including the restaurant.

But the wifi? The group photos? Is that all part of the restaurant experience now? Is that part of a server’s job? If so, I sure hope those people are tipping extra, because those servers are going above the call of duty.

There’s something unsettling about this data. What do you think? Are you bothered by it? Do you spend a lot of time on your phone when you go out to eat?

6 thoughts on “Why Is Service Slow? The Answer Will Surprise You”

  1. I tend to leave my phone in the car unless I’m going to sit down and am waiting for people who may try to text me if they’re lost. Zero time spent on the phone. Zero time taking pictures of my dinner.

  2. Although I completely agree that we as a society are far too dependent on our phones and social media at the expense of actually living our lives, I read the article you linked to and it strikes me as a hoax. First of all, it was apparently pulled from Craigslist, which I find highly suspicious, and it doesn’t seem as though it’s been verified in any way. Secondly, when setting up the story there are a few too many coincidences and overly elaborate details given that you mostly see with these types of made up stories. They used different cameras (4 special Sony systems, no less) 10 years ago, but they only kept the footage for 90 days at a time. Oh wait! They still have the cameras and each one just happened to have an old tape left in it! And the tapes just happened to be from the same week of the year exactly 10 years ago! Wow!

    I think someone’s trying to get this to go viral and inflating the numbers to make a point and cause outrage. My BS meter (not a Sony) is going off.

    That being said…have a fantastic time on your vacation, Jamey! You deserve some time off.

    • You know, I hadn’t considered that the whole thing might have been a hoax…I shouldn’t have taken it at face value! I wonder if there’s any way if it could be verified.

  3. I agree it could very well be a hoax. Yet, it’s enough of a thought provoking one. I do spend time at the table with my phone. Out here, you’re an anomaly without one. Having said that, not everyone who has one is just frivolously using it. I met with an exec from a major network last night and understandably, she has to check it. Same with many of us in Lalaland. The average user has limits but, I’ll guarantee you that if you are with vip’s, your perspective changes. I had this discussion just today.

    Enjoy your vacation, Jamey. Be well and yes, the work will be in STL when you return.

    😉 Salud.

  4. “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story”. Hoax or not, we’ve changed and the disruption is digital. Three years ago my work lunches were 30 minutes of small talk and 10 minutes of actual shop talk, and those 10 minutes were very valuable. Now, a work lunch is the other guys checking email while I try to make conversation. No, a meal without talking is just sustenance; a meal requires other people.

    I’d like to start an internet hoax; it’ll be about a little restaurant in a big city that uses baby forks. that’s right, small bites, little bit at a time. And a standing rule that the check won’t arrive until 30 minutes after the food arrives, so that you have no reason to rush through your meal. You can ingest basic materials by eating a PowerBar or some Generic Soy Protein Comparative; you come to this restaurant to enjoy a meal. So savor it like a lover hangs on every word of a serenade, like a parent listens to every breath of a newborn babe. Every morsel is precious, has taste, has scent, has texture, has temperature. Dimension upon dimension of sensation, and you are the only person on earth who will ever enjoy this particular food.


Leave a Reply

Discover more from jameystegmaier.com

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading