Table Allocation is King

Table Allocation is King in any restaurant as it is the foundation for the creation of amazing experiences

Table Allocation is King in any restaurant as it is the foundation for the creation of amazing experiences.

One school of thought proposes that the main reason for the continuing payment of tips in exclusive or fine dining restaurants has been the notion that the Restaurant Manager or Head Waiter or other restaurant staff can make or break your restaurant experience, especially where there is a greater expectation from the dining experience, as is the case with dining associated with a special occasion or when the dining experience has a significance greater than simply resolving hunger and thirst.

For example, if you are going out on a first date, taking your wife for a special night out or perhaps taking a business client out and you want to make a good impression, then you certainly do not want to be seated at the back of the restaurant next to the toilet or kitchen with no view. This example clearly indicates the power of the restaurant staff over your dining experience and that the “table allocation process” really is the foundation upon which the dining experience is made. It is therefore easy to understand and appreciate that the table allocation process is really the “King” and the beginning of your dining experience at your chosen restaurant.

To win the favour of restaurant staff, and to ensure that restaurant experiences are appropriate, many people think that the amount of tips they leave will determine the seating allocation on their next visit. This concept reinforced the “incentive” or “requirement” for diners to become regulars at a restaurant as well as tipping staff well if they are to be assured of the experience they require or need from their boking.

The table allocated within the restaurant is also seen as a status symbol so people compete to be allocated to the better tables within a restaurant. In these situations, restaurant staff normally allocate tables by ranking customers by the amount they tip. Such that the best tipper gets the best table and so on. Obviously, this ranking system does not favour first-time diners at a restaurant. It is also for this reason that many hotel guests prefer to make local restaurant reservations through their hotel concierge, in the hope that the “power” of the hotel and the concierge will secure them a better table than if they were to make a booking directly by themselves with no known history at that restaurant. It is this same reason that companies like Amex use to attract customers to their concierge services, namely, that through their relationship with a restaurant they can offer you a better table booking through them, than booking directly by yourself.

This practice can also be seen at restaurants where a restaurant manager will allocate a table based on the appearance of a walk-in customer. In this regard, Peter Petroulas refers to experiences at his restaurants, where his Restaurant Managers added their own personal touches, and that he fought to change:

  • The allocation of two skinny young girls to the worst table in the restaurant as the restaurant manager thought they would not eat or drink much and hence would not tip much. Turned out that they were models that had just finished a photoshoot and wanted to celebrate with high-end champagne and drinks topped off by a big meal.
  • The allocation of casually dressed businesspeople to a worse table as they thought they were managing small businesses and had limited budgets for dining and tipping. One of the customers is a billionaire.
  • The turning away of a customer at a casual café/restaurant because they were wearing a bandana and then bragging to other staff that he turned away the pirate. The customer was a national TV host, radio presenter, author and journalist and international sportsperson.
  • A Restaurant Manager chasing a customer down the street and asking him to come back and dine at the restaurant after he was turned away by the Assistant Restaurant Manager. The Restaurant Manager realised that the person who had been turned away was a visiting international superstar who was having a concert the following day in the city.
  • A waiter always ran to the front door when he saw “attractive” girls arrive so that he could seat them in his section, have more time to talk to them, and see if one of them would accept his invitation to go out with him.

Based on the above it is not only clear to see that the table allocation process is king, but that leaving it to people to manually determine is fraught with problems.

It is however an established fact that those who are known, and willing to pay a higher tip will be allocated a better table.

In some countries premium tables are “put aside” and whoever tips the Restaurant manager or Host at the door the most amount of money or the “right” amount of money is given those premium set aside tables. Again, and as can easily be seen, the first and most important variable for the payment of a tip is the table allocated. Aspects like the food and the attention and service provided by the restaurant staff are generally a known or expected standard for the reputation and status of the restaurant selected.

This practice of who allocates the table and who will be the “kingmaker” can now be challenged by digitalization.  Clearly, if the table allocation process is taken during the booking process, digitalization, and artificial intelligence and out of the hands of the restaurant staff the power for the most important aspect of a dining experience is returned to the restaurant owner. The restaurant owner can now return to being in control of the most important aspect and the foundation of the dining experience the allocation of tables  

Peter Petroulas, has invented the World’s first automatic and democratic allocation, seating, capacity and yield management system. Such that, for the first time a restaurant owner can allow customers to personalise and create their own dining experiences meaning that a Restaurant Manager and waiters are no longer mandatory participants in a process that necessarily involves an “activity within an activity” or a “business within a business” and the owner can deal directly with the customer.

The Future

The concept of an “activity within an activity” or “business within a business” can be easily understood as in some restaurants, staff “own” their “sections” or “tables” and “better sections” which have tables with a more perceived utility such as a view generally receive more tips such that staff can “sell” their “sections” or the tables based on the benefit of the “tips” they receive. As highlighted earlier, the amount of the tip paid in most cases has a direct correlation to the table allocation within the restaurant and not the quality of the food or level of service provided by the various staff members.

If there was ever a time for restaurant owners to review to consider communicating directly with their customers concerning the booking allocation process and the appropriateness of continuing the concept of tips and the “activity within an activity” or a “business within a business,” now is the time!

In the modern digital environment, as with the automated, autonomous dynamic allocation invented by Peter Petroulas which permits yield management and product differentiation direct to a customer so that a customer can decide to accept a better table allocation for the payment of a slightly higher fee as is the case with a better hotel room or a better seat on a plane restaurant owners have the opportunity of empowering the customer to decide where they seat and not be at the mercy of the restaurant manager or the restaurant staff as to where they sit through the payment of an “unofficial tip” based on the visual analysis of a customer by a staff member.

By becoming more digitally savvy, restaurant owners can give the power back to customers for them to decide where they want to seat and to personalise their dining experience based on their own budget and needs. An example of this new democratic approach would be to offer a table at the back of the restaurant at a cheaper price to someone who is a “foodie” on a tither budget who is after experiencing the food while charging a little more for the table with a view to someone who does not mind paying a little more for their special occasion. Needless to say, the added benefit to a restaurant owner is that the business that they have created and the environment that they have created will be more under their direct management and control as they will not be constrained by the outcomes of an “activity or business within their business” such that they can continue to get closer to their customers and create experiences that they can control to grow their restaurant.

The Petroulas framework, data structure and dynamic allocation system permit the digitalisation within restaurants to allow owners to get lost to their customers something that has been long sort after but not been possible until now.

Peter Petroulas,

The Hospo Wiz