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Free tech tool optimizes your dining room layout

Free tech tool optimizes your dining room layout

A Cornell researcher is giving full-service operators a no-cost way to analyze table usage in their restaurants.

Wish you could have an operations whiz from Cornell’s renowned School of Hotel Administration help you wring maximum revenue out of your dining room? Then you’ll want to get the free download of the Restaurant Table Simulator (RTS) software tool the school has put up on its site.

RTS is the brainchild of Cornell professor Gary Thompson, a hospitality operations expert who has used something similar in his academic research for a number of years. He aimed to make this new version user-friendly for working restaurant owners and managers.

“I wanted to make the simulator more accessible and useful to the restaurant industry,” Thompson says. “So, it’s based on Excel, which will allow a wide application. All the users have to do is plug their numbers into the spreadsheet and it will return such metrics as table usage, customer wait and customers lost, given a particular set of inputs.”

What can the RTS tell you that you don’t already know? You can get an idea of how valuable this tool can be by checking out Thompson’s 2003 research article “Dedicated or Combinable? A Simulation to Determine Optimal Restaurant Table Configuration.” It was based on data generated by an early version of RTS.

This particular study looked at full-service restaurants that didn’t take reservations.

For these types of operations, Thompson determined that small restaurants could increase revenue per available seat hour by about two percent if they used tables that can be combined as needed according to party size, instead of using tables dedicated to seating parties of specific sizes. It’s a strategy that didn’t work nearly as well at larger restaurants, where results were better if 2-tops remained 2-tops, 4-tops remained 4tops and so on.  

In the closing paragraph of this 10-year-old study, Thompson says he thinks he’s onto something that will help operators determine the best table mix for their dining rooms. But he laments how long the simulations took given the computing power available at the time. He would have liked to have looked deeper but…”“since simulating 8,037 table mix alternatives already takes over four hours of computer time, there is a definite need for a tool that can quickly find the best-performing table mix,” he wrote back then.

He’s got that tool now, and he’s making it available to operators in a format they’ll be able to use.

Get started with the tool

At minimum, RTS gives restaurant owners and managers a different way of analyzing their businesses. You might learn how to optimize revenue in your dining room, or you might only be able to give better instructions to your host, hostess or reservationist about when and where people should be seated in your restaurant. Either way, the information could be valuable, and we know the price is right.

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