A restaurant studied its old surveillance and solved a "major mystery." Happy Place investigates.

A restaurant studied its old surveillance and solved a "major mystery." Happy Place investigates.

A couple days ago, someone posted the results of a behavioral study into the effects of smartphone usage on restaurant service. The study was published in a very well-respected scientific journal, The Rants & Raves Section Of Craigslist. [Archive viewable here]

While the typical "rant" on CL usually concerns the proliferation of lizard people in senior executive positions at the World Bank, this post claimed to have solved a "Major Mystery" of the modern dining scene, concluding that our phones are ruining everything. 

It's nothing but lies but all your friends are sharing it anyway.

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Like any major study, it first sets forth the background of the control group and researchers as well as the methodology, then it presents its findings, which are riddled with enough grammatical and spelling errors that the whole thing could be mistaken for a phishing email from a Nigerian prince.

We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years we noticed that although the number of customer's we serve on a daily basis is almost the same today as it was 10 years ago, the service just seems super slow even thou we added lot's more staff and cut back on the menu items.

The unnamed restaurant claims to have decided to "hire a firm" to investigate why service is slow despite there having been no change in the "number of customer's [sic]". No idea what sort of "firm' is available for this task, outside of making a call to Bar Rescue's bass-mouthed service industry wizard, John Taffer.

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"The Firm" suggested that the restaurant look at their surveillance tapes from ten years ago to see if they could notice any difference in the quality of service and speed of customer turnover. Unfortunately, ten years ago the restaurant recorded everything on tapes, unlike their digital system of today. Since they didn't save all the tapes, guess this ten-year study is going to have to be aborted, right?

We did find the recording devices, and luckily for us, each device has 1 tape in it that we simply never removed when we upgraded to the new digital system.

The date stamp on the old footage was Thursday July 1 2004, the restaurant was real busy that day.  

Hooray! As ridiculously fortuitous luck would have it, the only tapes they found were dated almost exactly ten years ago to the day. The study is saved! 

Just to recap, a restaurant noticed service was slow. They hired "A Firm," an organization clearly operating so deep in the shadows of the restaurant industry that its name can never be spoken. "The Firm" suggested they find a video record of the restaurant's business operations from ten years ago and, following a thorough search of the restaurant's storage room (Note: If a restaurant has a "storage room," it's used for on-shift cocaine abuse and maybe as a place to throw a few broken chairs), the only remaining tapes they found were recorded exactly ten years ago, nearly to the day.


Now let's get to the reason why everyone is forwarding this crap around. The "findings." The poster claims to have looked at 45 customers from July 1, 2004  and July 3, 2014. Exactly 45 from each day, apparently. The post doesn't explain whether they chose 45 from each day or, if on each day ten years apart, there were exactly 45 customers in the establishment. This is left unclear because none of this happened and the whole thing is lies. 


First, the 2004 findings...


Customers walk in.

They gets seated and are given menus, out of 45 customers 3 request to be seated elsewhere.

Customers on average spend 8 minutes before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.

Waiters shows up almost instantly takes the order.

Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take way longer.

Out of 45 customers 2 sent items back that where too cold we assume (given they were not steak we assume they wanted the item heated up more).

Waiters keep an eye out for their tables so they can respond quickly if the customer needs something.

Customers are done, check delivered, and within 5 minutes they leave.

Average time from start to finish: 1:05

Oh, 2004! We were so civilized! We made our dining decisions with such clear-minded precision. Was it the lingering post-9/11 death of irony that kept us from dilly-dallying with snide chit-chat? Or, since only 2 items were sent back to be reheated, maybe ovens were warmer? 

Nope and nope. Check out these 2014 findings:

Customers walk in. 

Still ambulatory. So far so good.

Customers get seated and is given menus, out of 45 customers 18 requested to be seated elsewhere.

18? In 2004 it was 3. Sounds like you have 15 new drafty spots in your dining room, non-existent restaurant. Spackle that shit! (Also, "are given menus." Come on, man. Try.)

Before even opening the menu they take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are simply doing something else on their phone (sorry we have no clue what they are doing and do not monitor customer WIFI activity).

People and their phones, right? At least this restaurant is scrupulous enough to not "monitor customer WFI activity," since that would be pretty difficult and somewhat psychotic for a restaurant to do (unless, NSA?).

7 out of the 45 customers had waiters come over right away, they showed them something on their phone and spent an average of 5 minutes of the waiter's time. Given this is recent footage, we asked the waiters about this and they explained those customers had a problem connecting to the WIFI and demanded the waiters try to help them.

Have you ever asked a server for the WIFI password? Did it ever, in your time on this planet, even once require the server to spend five minutes with you? Or did it more likely take the server a single breath to either speak the password, say "we don't have WIFI," or perhaps suggest that you use your phone's 4G signal since it's twenty goddamn fourteen and that's usually faster than WIFI anyway? Keep in mind, "an average of 5 minutes" means some people had the waiter doing tech for longer than that. On their phones. This is lies.


Eff it. Here's the rest. It says that the reason service is slow lately is because we spend a lot of time on our phones at restaurants, and it makes up a bunch of exaggerated durations of phone activity in order to sound legitimate.

Finally the waiters are walking over to the table to see what the customers would like to order. The majority have not even opened the menu and ask the waiter to wait a bit.

Customer opens the menu, places their hands holding their phones on top of it and continue doing whatever on their phone.

Waiter returns to see if they are ready to order or have any questions. The customer asks for more time.


Finally they are ready to order.

Total average time from when the customer was seated until they placed their order 21 minutes.

Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take way longer.

26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.

14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn't pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn't have gotten cold.

27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.

8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant.

Average time from start to finish: 1:55



Based on this anonymous study that was typed with the precision of a limping housecat walking across a keyboard, restaurant customers snapping pictures of their food takes up approximately 197 hours of every dining transaction. I came up with this number using the same math as the poster of this study. By which I mean, I'm lying.

While it only takes a second to conclude that all of these "findings" are bullshit—people don't keep a waiter at their table for five minutes to get a WIFI password they don't need, it doesn't take 3 minutes to Instagram your meal—no one who's sharing the post read more than a few lines of it before they posted the link and tweeted, "Get off your phones, people!"


We eat this crap up (restaurant pun!). We're all on our phones constantly, and we all think the way other people use their phones is the problem, not me! If I share this article, I'm saying that I'm clearly the one who is aware of what's wrong, you guys are the ones who need to stop it with your food Instagrams and your Facebook check-ins. (BTW, the "people taking pics of their food" indictment is such an old, boring cliche, I'd rather look at pics of brunch than hear it again.)

In conclusion, this was lies. Stop sharing it. But wait, here's the icing on the cake.

We are grateful for everyone who comes into our restaurant, after all there are so many choices out there. But can you please be a bit more considerate?

Can you please go fuck yourself? You weren't considerate enough to use spell-check, you can't ask me to quit checking my favs. 

If this place did exist, it's a restaurant in Midtown East. To people outside of New York, Midtown East is a cultural and dining wasteland, so this restaurant blows anyway. Not even "The Firm" could make it someplace I'd want to stare at my phone in. 

But if I ever did, I'd spend so much time on my phone, the waiters would have to ask me for my order by commenting on my Instagrams. Since, in my experience, they're all on their phones too, they'll be fine with it. And the only person who'd be pissed is the dude who posted this fiction.


(by Bob Powers)