do TVs add to the dining experience?

January 22, 2015

by marie murray

when i was younger, i remember learning a piece of dining etiquette from my uncle. he told me that if a guy wants to take a girl on a date, he should always allow the girl to take the seat at the table with the greater view of the room.

if the table is in a corner, for example, the polite thing for him to do is to choose the chair facing the walls, so that she becomes the center of his undivided vision.

i forgot all about this dating memo until recently, when i found myself going out to eat in a restaurant with several large TV screens hovering at just the right altitude and angles to ensure everyone’s easy viewing access. throughout the evening, our conversations would stop as our eyes continually drifted away from each other and towards the images flashing across the screen.

the presence of TV screens in restaurant settings has now become widespread enough that it would seem almost strange to complain about. and yet, when you think about it, the presence of a TV screen seems to contradict the very purpose of most restaurants. the whole concept of dining out is typically meant to provide:

  • a chance to spend time with people over a meal and enjoy the company
  • seating and furniture layout set up to facilitate conversation
  • food prepared for you that is often different from what you’re used to

why is it then, that TVs have become such a common feature within restaurants?

a number of studies1 show that people tend to snack more and eat larger portions if they are sitting in front of the TV. the reason for this is obvious. if people are distracted while eating, they are less mindful of how much they are consuming, and less aware of the signals that the body sends when it is full. perhaps the restaurant industry has taken note of this and realized that customers are prone to consume more when there is a TV present.

a recent study has been conducted on a restaurant that had been receiving poor reviews for the past several years. to best understand why their customers seemed less satisfied than before, the restaurant compared the practices of 2004 with those of 2014. the findings were fascinating.

the only significant difference between the two years was that the 2014 consumers owned smart phones. the 2014 customers were constantly on their phones, asking the waiting staff to take photos, and lingering over text messages and social media. they ended up staying for almost double the time compared to the 2004 customers, and left feeling less satisfied with the overall experience. because they were likely not aware that their smart phones were the problem, they blamed the restaurant. you may wonder what this study has to do with TVs and dining.

the point here is that while considering the concept of your restaurant, you may want to draw up a cost-benefit analysis. there is a good chance that TVs will increase your total revenue, but there may also be the risk that customer satisfaction will decrease.

of course there are certain venues where a TV is very important to the concept. many restaurants or pubs for example, provide a place to meet up with a group of friends to watch a football match. some restaurants show music videos that appeal to a certain age group and add to the ambiance of the environment. in these cases, the concept is meant to provide a space that allows groups of friends, colleagues, or even strangers to unite over a shared entertainment experience, and enjoy some food and beverage in the meantime. a TV is a vital addition to this environment.

as you are thinking about the concept of your dining space, there are some helpful questions you might want to ask.

  • is the aims to facilitate pleasant conversation amongst diners, or is it to offer customers a place to view a sports game together?
  • does the overall revenue increase brought by TVs outweigh the potential decrease in consumer ratings?
  • will your customers’ attention be pulled away from the quality and taste of the food?
  • if you decide that a TV fits well with the concept of your venue, how can you design your seating and furniture layout to maximize the customers’ experience?
  • if your aim is to bring friends together to watch, for example, a world cup game, are there other times during the day when it is beneficial to keep the TV turned off?

whether or not my uncle’s tip has become outdated, he still makes a good point about the purpose of the dining experience. when consumers are unable to focus on the people they are with, chances are everyone will probably leave feeling less than satisfied. this is where well planned dining concept can help everyone involved to have a richer experience, whether it is through pleasant conversation, or the feeling of shared solidarity that comes from watching an exciting match together.

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Reference:

  1. Wansink, Brian. Mindless eating: Why we eat more than we think. Random House LLC, 2007.

2 Responses to “do TVs add to the dining experience?”

  1. don’t you think people are more complicated and less satisfied in general than before, so they will always complain no matter what!? 😉

    (btw what’s the issue with not capitalizing the words!?) lol

  2. That’s a good theory that you propose Fadi. Although people are definitely more complicated, we’ve merely presented the finding of the study. I’m sure there are other more subtle factors at play besides—and maybe as a result of—the introduction of smartphones. What do you think?

    The lowercase approach has been a long-standing branding decision for casafekra. I agree with you that it doesn’t work well with long running text.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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