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What is Table Turn?

Evaluate your restaurant layout for greater table turn and higher profits.

Most patrons never give a thought to the tables where they dine, but it is the savvy restaurateur who designs furniture choices around profitability. Table turn is an important part of the bottom line and the arrangement and size of the tables you offer can have a big impact on the overall financial picture of your restaurant.

Choose the Right Table Size

Table size can be a tricky thing for restaurants. You must have a large enough surface for customers to comfortably dine, but too-large tables eat up precious floor space and can make room layouts a nightmare. Your menu impacts this choice as much as any other factor. Typically, Asian and Mexican menus need the most table top area to accommodate larger plates. Customers are more willing to accept cozier seating for a buffet line and fusion menus.

Table Shape Makes a Difference

Table shape, as well as size, can have a big impact on a restaurant floor plan. Round tables can accommodate squeezing in extra diners while square tables dictate places settings by their mere shape. The benefit of the square over the round table surface is the ease with which you can slide tables together for a large party and then whisk them back to their original locations. Spend some time evaluating your most frequented table size. If larger parties are the norm, not the exception, square tables might be the better choice. The general architectural standard is 300 square inches per diner, but you must decide how that applies to your place settings, your menu and the overall mood you wish to inspire.

The Psychology Of Food

Placement of the tables you select also influences customers. Studies are popping up from university psychology departments across the United States on the way the mind sways people and their eating habits. Studies in environmental psychology are focusing on the ways in which the color, shape and design of commercial spaces impact the choices made by customers -- and many of these findings can offer restaurant owners some powerful insights into the minds of their patrons.

Cash in on the Mind/Appetite Connection

Use the power and insight of these major psychological studies to improve your bottom line. Some examples of restaurant features that encourage high turn are:
  • Tables placed near the kitchen door or in other high-traffic areas.
  • Hard, smooth tabletops.
  • Unanchored tables.
  • Tables grouped in the center of the room.
  • Less seat padding and cushioning.

Walk Ins Welcome

Foot traffic is an important issue to consider as well. Crowded spaces encourage more people to enter a restaurant, so the ability to close off sections of your establishment and place diners closer together can have a big impact on who decides walks in the door. All Business has great resources to introduce you to the mind/appetite connection and its far reaching effects. Research articles under the headings of "Behavioral Geography" for more detailed information on this emerging field.

Color Impacts Appetite and Lingering

The effect color has on diners is an ever-widening debate between researchers and restaurant owners. There is some evidence that red increases the appetite and bold colors on tables and walls implies speed which can translate to table turn. Traditionally, white walls have been thought to encourage turnover and warm colors can create a feeling of security and comfort, which may lead to slower turn. While more research is needed to resolve some of these issues, there is no doubt that the color palette you choose will affect the overall experience of your patrons. Check in with commercial designers for the latest on this growing topic.

Start with Small Steps

With all this attention to color, size and placement of your tables, you may feel like you need to gut your entire space and start over. That is most certainly not the case. Make changes in incremental steps and keep them manageable. Wait staff still need to negotiate any new arrangements and delays in food service will far outweigh any gains made by new tables. Pay close attention to any restrictions your state applies to the spacing between tables and around exits which must be met to follow legal codes.

The selection of tables for a restaurant is really a balancing game between gaining the profitability you need to keep the doors open and welcoming patrons to your establishment. Like every other aspect of restaurant management, this can be a bit of a juggling act. Careful planning and small steps toward better profitability should keep you successful.

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