On-site Research for Waiting in Lines

I went on-site to 1.) Noodlehead, 2.) Oishii, 3.) Piada, 4.) Fuku Tea, 5.) CMU Health Services, and 6.) McDonald’s conduct a short preliminary comparison on the efficiency and overall effectiveness of the experience for lining up in a physical space.

1.) Noodlehead

Ever wait in a line that made you want to walk away? Welcome to Noodlehead.
Bottleneck effect — both first and second points of contact/interaction with staff and customers occur at the same spot, with traffic from newcomers because the check-in is located right at the door. This is just the waiting for seating. After seated, although no physical line exists, there is still a queue for ordering and waiting for food.

Noodlehead is the least efficient line I’ve witnessed. I went during a busy time, during dinner. The turnover rate was extremely low because we had to wait for tables to open up, which means that it was highly dependent on the speed of other patron’s dining habits. The wait time we experienced was over half an hour.

Taken in context of the cramped environment where everyone was stuck in, I was provided a bad experience. Customers were not afforded any environmental or ambient distractions from their waiting experience other than their phones and their friends and family they came with. After being seated, patrons then spent more time deciding on which foods to eat on the menus. This is an extremely inefficient system because they could have been afforded this distraction during their time waiting for seating. However, this is also not a fast food restaurant, and may compromise the image and experience of a sit-down diner if patrons were given menus before seating. The whole thing felt very rushed because the servers were very harried and the environment was very loud, which wasn’t conducive to a leisurely experience. It felt like a fast-food restaurant masquerading as casual dining.

2.) Oishii

Oishii uses a order/checkout + pickup system, and maximizes their floor space with the use of a digital queue.
Oishii has sufficient floor space for customers. There are two points of interaction, side by side. The first point is for order/check-out, the second is for food pickup. This could create a lot of concentrated traffic in the floor space from waiting customers. Oishii solves this by providing seating and allows customers to wait upstairs by providing an electronic queue that flashes the number of the order ready to be picked up.

Oishii uses a great affordance in order to control traffic on their floor space. The hanging digital queue they have on the second floor flashes the order when ready for customer pickup, which allows them to wait on the second floor. This larger spread of waiting customers clears up the first floor space for those waiting in line to order, at the first point of contact. Based on the trends I’ve observed in the other lines, areas where the first and second point of contact are physically closer tend to create more traffic and less movability. By using the digital marker on the second floor, they’ve successfully avoided this problem.

Oishii also provides great accommodations for the waiting customer. There is a large digital menu display in front of the line for ordering, which provides a distraction for customers. Additionally, there is an offering of hot water and barley tea, which also distracts from the waiting experience. Sometimes when Oishii is especially busy a line forms outside the restaurant, but this could be arguably advantageous because it projects an image of desirability to other potential patrons. It still sucks to wait outside, though.

3.) Piada

Piada has one long serpentine line, starting from the door and curving around with order, checkout, and pickup all together.
Other half sectioned off for seating.
Piada’s line system is flexible because it provides order for short and longer queues. It uses floor space efficiently by forcing customers to curve in the line and allows three times as many people to fit in the section that’s divided up. It also is efficient because the line starts from the door. The first point of contact is for placing the order, the second is for checking out and picking up the food.

Piada is the only business I’ve researched that has a serpentine line system. I’ve notice that this is an advantageous tactic to maximize floor space. The Piada line forms from outside and leads in. Without the serpentine line, the line would surely curve outside the door, and not around the store.

The two points of contact are next to each other, but do not create traffic because they are part of the same line. Because customers can watch their food being made in front of them, they have a lessened sense of waiting and feel the progress of the line. Even though the line in actuality has many patrons, it feels like it is constantly moving because of the short length of the serpentine. Customers are also engaged with a large wall menu.

4.) Fuku Tea

Fuku Tea has a long line that occasionally stretches out. There’s an order/check out, and a sitting area for people while they wait for the pickup.
Fuku Tea’s space accommodates short lines very well; if they are busy the line oftentimes curves out the door. There’s usually a orderly line for the first point of contact. Sometimes a huddle forms around the second point of contact, around the area for picking up the drinks.

Fuku Tea also has a short distance between the first and second points of contact. The first point of contact is located at the center of the room, the second off to the side. This creates a concentration of people in the front half the space. Customers usually look at the menu and decide on their order while they wait. Sometimes the line goes out the door. Like Oishii, the line out the door may add to the attraction of Fuku Tea instead of working against it. However, once again, it is not an ideal experience.

5.) CMU Health Services

Health services has checkin-in kiosks in a parallel line structure, with a waiting area for people to be seated. A physical line rarely, if ever, forms. A nurse calls someone over from the seating area for their consultation.
Health services has a line but does not manifest in a physical form. The floor space use is spread out by having both points of contact with the room on opposite sides. This also encourages students who are waiting to spread out.

Health Services does not have a physical queue but does have people waiting in physical space, so I included them as part of my research.

The interesting thing about the system in place is that there is no way of knowing who is before or after me. This takes away the anticipation of the pickup. At the same time, it made me anxious each time the nurse came out to call a name. Health services has a TV screen mounted on the middle of a wall to help pass the time.

6.) McDonald’s

McDonald’s has a simple parallel line structure.
McDonald’s uses their space efficiently because they also spread out their points of contact with the customers on the floor space. The lines are usually very short and the food has a quick turnover rate. Customers pick up food on the other side of the room. This encourages them to spread out in the middle space during the awkward time in the middle.

McDonald’s is interesting because it employed the parallel line system. As The poster child for quintessential fast food restaurants, it makes sense that they would pride efficiency above all. There is rarely a line there, and if there is it’s very short. Customers are taken care of quickly and food is put out quickly at the pickup as well. The middle area between the lines and seating are usually where customers take a step back to decide their order from, because the menus are mounted high on the walls. As a result, it doesn’t stop up the lines or cause confusion for who is ready to order because deciding customers are separated from ordering customers. The first and second points of contact are both spread out across two sides of the room and there is no traffic.