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Smartphones waste time

23 July 2014, 13:17 *Mandi Smallhorne

ALL across the internet, people are sharing the story of a New York City restaurant which decided to investigate complaints of slow service. Long story short, the management unearthed surveillance tapes from ten years ago and compared activity then to almost the exact same date this year.

Back in 2004, customers entered, were seated, spent about eight minutes choosing dishes, ordered, were served, two out of 45 sent food back to the kitchen, customers ate and left within an average of one hour and five minutes.

Here’s 2014 (edited for length and grammar):
Customers are seated and given menus; out of 45 customers, 18 requested to be seated elsewhere.

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 Wi-Fi activity).

Seven out of the 45 customers called waiters right away, they showed them something on their phone for an average of five 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 Wi-Fi and demanded the waiters try to help them.

Eventually, waiters go 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.

Customers open the menu, place 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 six minutes (the same prep time as in 2004).

Twenty-six out of 45 customers spend an average of three minutes taking photos of the food.

Fourteen 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 four minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

Nine out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously, if they hadn’t paused to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn't have gotten cold.

Twenty-seven out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo; 14 of those requested that the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process added another five minutes and caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.

Given that 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 cheque. Once the cheque was delivered, it took 15 minutes longer than ten years ago for them to pay and leave.

Eight of the 45 customers bumped into other customers - or in one case a waiter - because they were texting while walking into or out of the restaurant.

Average time from start to finish: 1 hour 55 minutes.

Laugh? I had tears in my eyes! I’ll admit that once, I took a pic of the salad at the Mount Nelson and posted it on Facebook, but I’ve never become a habitual food-poster. Tons of my friends and acquaintances are, though, and clutter my feed with their works of art.

The ones I really find, like, huh? are the pics people take of their own home-made meals: “Roast veg and feta salad I put together for lunch, yummy!” TMI (too much information - do people still say TMI?).

But after the laugh, I found myself wondering if this is the experience our local restaurants have. Is there anyone in the industry who’s been there long enough to make a comparison like this one? Is the average customer visit taking significantly longer, for similar reasons?

I’m rather partial to my online world. I’ve made good friends there, and I use the internet with abundant joy to do research – as long as you know how to filter the junk, it is a boon to a journalist to be able to use virtual hands to find papers at the Library of Congress, research on PLoSONE and send emails to A-rated scientists in Aarhus or Auckland.

Recently I bought a tablet for my mother, and have enjoyed watching a woman a generation older than me take to the web like a duck to water.

But of course, it has its downsides, including a nefarious and nasty underworld that one has to be careful to avoid.

And of course, it can also interfere with productivity. Since I’m a freelancer, I have to keep that under control; but what if you’re an employee? How much of your time is wasted online? According to a Forbes article last year, if you’re a top user of online services, about a quarter of your working hours. And apparently it’s getting worse over time.

What’s the solution? Well, you could employ older people. Baby Boomers (born mid-1940s to mid-1960s) only waste 41 minutes a day, Gen Xers (born 1965-1981) waste 1.6 hours a day, and Millennials, born between 1982 and 2004, waste 2 hours a day - a full 60 hours a month.

 - Fin24

*Mandi Smallhorne is a versatile journalist and editor. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on twitter.

Smartphones - pain or gain? Which sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, etc) eat the most into your time? Share your thoughts (and pics) and you could get published.


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