Report: Diners Today Take 50 More Minutes to Finish a Meal Than in 2004

Report: Diners Today Take 50 More Minutes to Finish a Meal Than in 2004

How much time do customers spend at your restaurant? If you think they’re taking longer to order and eat than they did a few years ago, you might not be wrong!

After a customer complained about how long it took for meals to arrive, one restaurant decided to investigate this phenomenon. By examining surveillance footage from two dates about ten years apart—July 1st in 2004 and July 3rd in 2014—the restaurant was able to come to some interesting conclusions.

While a customer complained that meals were taking longer, it wasn’t entirely the restaurant’s fault. In fact, the customers were the ones increasing the meal time—by spending time on their phones! This adds to meal length in a few ways:

Customers are looking at their phones before they even get to the menu. Some customers ask waiters for help connecting to the restaurant’s Wi-Fi, while some are simply taking photos or responding to friends. Either way, about 21 minutes elapse from the time customers are seated to the time they place their orders.

Customers take pictures of their food, and, of course, the photo then has to be reviewed, retaken, and possibly edited and posted to Instagram. All this adds several more minutes.

After all that picture taking, some customers’ meals get cold, so they send them back.

But customers don’t just want photos of their food! In fact, 60% of customers ask for group photos—taken by their waiter, of course.

And, after the check is delivered, it takes 15 minutes longer for customers to pay than it did in 2004.

So what does this mean for your restaurant? Should you get angry that customers are taking up so much time and being rude? Definitely not. Although there are differences in how people eat out now, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them to your advantage! Here’s how you can take advantage of the extra time customers use in your restaurant and their reliance on technology.

Encourage customers to share their photos.

Customers are taking photos anyway, so why not ask them to share them on Instagram? When customers share their photos (and tag you in them), that’s free publicity for your restaurant. And photos of customers having fun are a great way to bring in more customers.

Take advantage of the extra time.

If customers are in your restaurant longer, that just gives you more time to sell. If you know they’ll be lingering after dinner, train your servers to suggest desserts. And servers should be able to suggest some great appetizers that customers can order before they even give the menu a glance.

Encourage online reviews.

Your customers are already online anyway, so why not encourage them to leave a review on Yelp or another online review site? You might even consider printing the request on your receipts.

Customers are taking longer than ever to enjoy a meal at restaurants, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! By keeping these tips in mind, you can take advantage of that extra time, gain some free advertising, and boost sales.


Trusted by thousands of bars and restaurants in North America since 1984, Buzztime integrates trivia, card, sports and live events with innovative tablet technology. While we don't take ourselves too seriously, this is a pretty serious business.

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