Worst Table: Be Aware Of Firm’s ‘Black Hole’ In Business Universe

By: Wojciech Kic

It’s hard for a business owner to take an honest look at the products or services he is offering. Take, for example, the restaurant business.

A restaurant may try by passing out customer satisfaction surveys, but it’s likely they’ll miss the boat.

My business par tner and I went to lunch recently. After about an hour, we were presented with a bill and we promptly paid. On the way out, I noticed attached to my receipt a customer satisfaction survey.

“Do you want to fill it out?” I asked my partner. “They want to know if you would come back.”

“Not a chance,” he snapped. “I don’t care to have my meal at the worst table.”

Of course not. Nobody does. Looking over the customer satisfaction survey, not a single question addressed my partner’s resolve or its consequences to the restaurant.The questions the owner of the restaurant did not ask in the customer satisfaction survey were:

1. How much did you enjoy sitting at the worst table? (Rate on a scale 1 to 5 or “Not at all” to “I loved it.”)

2. How did you know that you were sitting at the worst table? (Circle)

a. The table was next to the kitchen. b. The table was next to the restroom. c. The table was next to the entrance. d. The table was next to the waiting area. e. The table was in an empty “overflow” room.

3. When sitting at the worst table, what did you enjoy the least? (Circle)

a. Waiters bumping into my chair. b. Bus service congregating next to my table to look out for needy guests. c.The view of Clorox containers at the kitchen door. d. Guest leaving the restroom stopping at my table to adjust his belt and burp. e. Cold wind/hot air blasting in on me when guests were coming or leaving.

4. Did you consider it fair that you paid exactly the same price for your meal as the guy at the best table? (No or Yes)

5. How many worst tables do you think there are in the restaurant? (Circle) a. 5 b. 3 or 4 c. 1 or 2

6. Since you were seated at the worst table, when will you consider returning to the restaurant? (Circle)

a. Never. b. Next year. c. Next month. d. Next week.

7. Since we seated you at the worst table, would you recommend our service to your friends? (No or Yes)

The restaurant owner may be expected to collect approximately 10 responses a day (2.5 guests per table X 4). During an average month, excluding Sundays, there would be some 250 responses. Within a year, there would be 3,000 responses.

In a personal survey, I found that fewer than half of the respondents would return to a restaurant after being seated at the worst table.

The owner of the restaurant should ask himself the following questions:

1. How many prospective customers are needed to support 10 similar restaurants within a five-mile radius? (Assume 100,000)

2. What is a statistical distribution of customers per restaurant? (Assume 10,000)

3. What is a statistical break-even customer requirement per restaurant? (Assume 7,000).

4. How quickly will the restaurant start losing money when losing 1,500 customers per year? (Assume 2 years and 1 day*)

5. If the worst table is going to make me go out of business in two years and one day, why do I have one?

* If a restaurant has more than one worst table, the restaurant closing will be sooner than in two years.

The black hole of the restaurant business is the worst table. But every business has its own black hole. How many business owners are aware of it?

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