Give me some space!: Responses to table spacing in restaurants

Responses to table spacing in restaurants

From Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

The concept of personal space is well established, but the amount of personal space a person needs varies according to individual, situation, and culture. This paper considers how people respond to space in restaurants. A web-based survey was used to capture more than 1,000 Americans behavioral intentions and emotional responses to a projected restaurant experience when parallel dining tables were spaced at different distances apart under three common dining scenarios.  Consumers are clear in their dislike of closely spaced restaurant tables. The context of the dining experience (e.g., a business lunch, a family occasion) is likely to be a key factor in consumers’ preferences for table spacing and their subsequent behaviors. Gender was also a factor, as women were much less comfortable than men in tight quarters. Although difficult to draw firm implications for restaurateurs due to the many variables it is perhaps sensible to give spacing some thought as diners may be less likely to return to a restaurant with uncomfortable table spacing.

Abstrac

Having adequate personal space is an important aspect of users’ comfort with their environment. In a restaurant, for instance, spatial intrusion by others can lead to avoidance responses such as early departure or a disinclination to spend. A web-based survey of more than 1,000 Americans elicited behavioral intentions and emotional responses to a projected restaurant experience whn parallel dining tables were spaced at six, twelve, and twenty-four inches apart under three common dining scenarios. Respondents strongly objected to closely spaced tables in most circumstances, particularly in a “romantic” context. Not only did the respondents react negatively to tightly spaced tables but they were generally disdainful of banquette-style seating, regardless of table distance. The context of the dining experience (e.g., a business lunch, a family occasion) is likely to be a key factor in consumers’ preferences for table spacing and their subsequent behaviors. Gender was also a factor, as women were much less comfortable than men in tight quarters. The findings are clear but the implications for restaurateurs are not, because a tight table arrangement has been demonstrated to shorten the dining cycle without affecting spending. However, diners may be less likely to return to a restaurant with uncomfortable table spacing.

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Article details
Robson, S., Kimes, S., Becker, F., & Evans, G. (2011). Consumers’ Responses to Table Spacing in Restaurants Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 52 (3), 253-264 DOI: 10.1177/1938965511410310

     
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