Wherever the Road Leads

Dining by Cameralight

Would you like wi-fi with that?

Recently posted on the website of Toronto’s Q107 radio, is the picture below. These days, a very probable sight.

Not only for teenagers. I do not have data service here in Canada with my American carrier, Verizon, so have found myself investigating every possible venue for free wifi to check to see if I am important enough to have received an email in the twenty minutes since I last checked in the shopping mall.

It used to be that the first thing we did when we came home was to check the answering machine for messages. In this age when we tell our microwaves to hurry up, instant gratification has become an apparent necessity.



Smart phones have definitely changed the way we do a lot of things. Including dining.

A restaurant in New York City was concerned that it was getting negative reviews on the internet regarding service. It wanted to find out why, in order to rectify the situation.

Here is their story:


“We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same today as it was 10 years ago, the service just seems super slow even though we added lots more staff and cut back on the menu items.

One of the most common complaints on review sites against us and many restaurants in the area is that the service was slow and or they needed to wait a bit long for a table.

We decided to hire a firm to help us solve this mystery, and naturally the first thing they blamed it on was that the employees need more training and that maybe the kitchen staff is just not up to the task of serving that many customers.

Like most restaurants in NYC we have a surveillance system, and unlike today where it’s a digital system, 10 years ago we still used special high capacity tapes to record all activity. At any given time we had 4 special Sony systems recording multiple cameras. We would store the footage for 90 days just in case we need it for something.

The firm we hired suggested we locate some of the older tapes and analyze how the staff behaved 10 years ago versus how they behave now. We went down to our storage room but we couldn’t find any tapes at all.

We did find the recording devices, and luckily for us, each device has 1 tape in it that we simply never removed when we upgraded to the new digital system.

The date stamp on the old footage was Thursday July 1 2004, the restaurant was very busy that day. We loaded up the footage on a large size monitor, and next to it on a separate monitor, we loaded up the footage of Thursday July 3 2014. The amount of customers was only a bit more than 10 years prior.

Quickly outlined, here are the findings. We carefully looked at over 45 transactions in order to determine the data below:


Customers walk in.

They get seated and are given menus; out of 45 customers 3 request to be seated elsewhere.

Customers on average spend 8 minutes before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.

Waiters show up almost instantly to take the order.

Food starts to get delivered within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take way longer.

Out of 45 customers, 2 sent items back that were too cold we assume (given they were not steak we assume they wanted the item heated up more).

Waiters keep an eye out for their tables so they can respond quickly if the customer needs something.

Customers are done, check delivered, and within 5 minutes they leave.

Average time from start to finish: 1:05


Customers walk in.

Customers get seated and are given menus; out of 45 customers 18 requested to be seated elsewhere.

Before opening the menu they take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are simply doing something else on their phone. (Sorry we have no clue what they are doing and do not monitor customer WIFI activity).

7 out of the 45 customers had waiters come over right away, they showed them something on their phone and spent an average of 5 minutes of the waiter’s time. Given this is recent footage, we asked the waiters about this and they explained those customers had a problem connecting to the WIFI and requested the waiters try to help them.

Finally the waiters are walking over to the table to see what the customers would like to order. The majority have not even opened the menu and ask the waiter to wait a bit.

Customers open the menu flat on the table, place their hands holding their phones on top of it and continue doing whatever on their phone.

Waiter returns to see if they are ready to order or have any questions. The customer asks for more time.

Finally they are ready to order.

Total average time from when the customer was seated until they placed their order 21 minutes.

Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take way longer.

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Perhaps if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit-chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given that in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones, it took an average of 20 minutes longer than 10 years ago from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the restaurant.

Average time from start to finish: 1:55″


Even I, old and grey and crotchety, am guilty of some of the time-wasting, smart-phone offenses described above. I guess the moral of the story is to think about your own contribution to the problem before giving a bad review to a restaurant.




BTW, I hope that you will click on the video link at the top of the page. I have tried to become creative – and witty – with these posts, making a small movie that might be appropriate to the content. Still on a mammoth learning curve with Adobe After Effects, generally it takes me longer to create the – in this case one minute – movie than it does this page.

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  1. elayne  March 4, 2015

    we appreciate the effort Gordon and please continue with your good video work and of course excellent blog.


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