What is it?
This is a customer experience solution found in some Chipotle restaurants with space constraints. Some long tables have small gaps between each row, allowing Chipotle to provide the same sense of personal and individualized space obtained from entirely separated tables.
How does this interaction or pattern work?
Chipotle as many other fast food chains usually have to deal with the challenges of limited real estate and small spaces.
Restaurants usually try to deal with this issue by providing different layouts. However, sometimes space is minimal and traditional solutions like long bar tables with stools, discourage groups from visiting the restaurant.
Some Chipotle restaurants achieve a more optimal solution to this challenge by installing regular long tables while adding small gaps to provide a sense of separation and personal space.
This perception is usually impossible to achieve with traditional tables that are meant to be shared by different groups or individuals.
By adding a small gap in the last third of a traditional three rows / six people table, there’s an exponential increase in the value that it provides given such a small space. A table that only can seat a single party automatically becomes a table that can seat two parties in any of the following arrangements:
Party of 4 / Party of 2
Party of 4 / Single Guest
Party of 3 / Party of 2
Party of 3 / Single Guest
Party of 2 / Party of 2
Single Guest / Single Guest
How does it help or delight the user?
Optimized Real Estate and Creating Boundaries
Although this affordance seems disruptive and perhaps ugly, it is an excellent example of a customer experience pattern that allows a restaurant like Chipotle to provide a relatively good eating experience for groups and individuals with less space.
This small trick not only optimizes the use of physical space but also allows customers not to give up their sense of personal space when seating is limited.
We can all agree that the ideal scenario is a restaurant that is 3o% larger and that could fit more tables. We can also agree that we all want to avoid that last third of the table as much as we can. But in a scenario in which no other table is available, most people will end up using it and will likely have a better eating experience when compared to a restaurant using traditional long tables.
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