Restaurant Finds that Smartphone Photos Have Doubled Table Times Since 2004


Not exactly a reliable scientific study, a recent Craigslist rant by one “Busy NYC Restaurant” that describes itself as “a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists” has gotten a lot of press time for drawing attention to a troubling intersection of food service and photography.

Posted in the rants and raves section of the online classifieds site, the restaurant supposedly compared security footage from 2004 with that from 2014 and found that taking cell phone photos and other smartphone shenanigans have added nearly an hour to the average table time at the restaurant.

That’s right, according to the ‘research’ this restaurant allegedly did, patrons added nearly a full hour to their average stay at a restaurant by fiddling with their phones by taking pics of their food, of the restaurant, of each other and of themselves.


The rant quite simply breaks down the average experience in 2004 and compares it with 2014. In 2004, the stay involved what you would expect from a restaurant: walk in, spend 8 minutes figuring out what you want, order, get food, eat, ask for the check, and get out of there. The average time from start to finish: one hour and five minutes.

In 2014, things go a little differently. Here’s the word-for-word breakdown:

  • Customers walk in.
  • Customers get seated and is 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 WiFi activity).
  • 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. [Compared to 8 mins in 2004]
  • 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.

The average time from start to finish in 2014? According to the rant, it went from 1:05 to 1:55.


So let’s do some math.

The average life span (splitting the difference between men and women) is about 78 and a half years. There are 52 weeks in a year, which means that, on average, people live about 4,082 weeks in a lifetime. If you go out to dinner once per week, and spend an extra 50 minutes at your table every time because you’re taking pics, that comes out to 3,401.6 hours wasted.

When it’s all said and done, that means taking pictures of your food could potentially waste 141.7 days of your life. Some food for thought, if you will.

(via DineAbility)

Image credits: Smart phones and food Exchange Place NOLA by Infrogmation, oh hi, yes i’m taking a picture of my food to tweet about it by Michelle Tribe and Group at Restaurant Vogelweide by Axel Hecht.

  • Leonardo Abreu


  • Stephen S.

    I call shenanigans. Lots of this doesn’t pass the common-sense test. The largest hole being, that is a *lot* of counting and tabulation. I know the restaurant industry, I know its hours, I know its margins, and I have a hard time believing any restaurant paid (or even allowed) someone to do this in-depth and detailed an analysis on 45 tables.

    And then there’s the individual points. My favorite one is that supposedly from security footage someone can tell that a table is sending back food “to reheat.” Anyone who’s ever watched any kind of security footage will call shenanigans on that one.

    My bet? This rant doesn’t even come from a restaurant. Just some random troll who thought it would be fun to stir a pot via Craigslist.

  • opiapr

    Also what restaurant keeps security footage from 2004?

  • Scott Spellman

    This is highly suspicious because the numbers just don’t make sense. I have never been to any restaurant where more than 50% of the people take photos of their food, or where people spend a full 3 minutes taking photos. There is also no way 20% of customers sent their food back to be reheated. Blaming smart phones for an 90% increase in table time is simply absurd. It also fails to mention any changes in the average spend per table, which usually increases high profit alcohol sales with longer table times.

  • pgb0517

    That’s the one part of the article that could make sense. People replace computers all the time and leave the drives in them, and they don’t necessarily discard old stuff. It would make sense that they might have old cameras with tapes left in them. I worked in IT for over twenty years, and I’m sure we had plenty of legacy data sitting on our shelves (in a secure area).

  • Gerard Henninger

    I never really understood why restaurants in the US want people to sit->eat->pay->go away. I understand that they want to sell tables and want as many customers in a day as they can, but for me (Dutch) it didn’t really feel that friendly.

    I’m in the states a couple times a year (for work) and every time I get that “Go away, your plate is empty, pay and f*ck off” look when I’m having dinner somewhere.

    That’s the complete opposite of how things are in Europe; You come in, have diner, have fun with your friends, eat, have some more friends, have coffee, talk some more. I bet most people spent about 2+ hours over here in a restaurant, just enjoying themselves. You don’t need to go, there’s no need to rush, you can have your table as long as you want.

  • DickCheney

    It was almost certainly a tongue-in-cheek post, that may or may not have been from a restaurant. And for what it was, it was amusing. Why are people taking it seriously?

  • GeorgeFayne

    I think this whole study is BS. But if 18 of 45 customers are requesting to be reseated then there’s more going on at this restaurant than “boo hoo smartphones.”

  • Stephen431

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

    Okay, 21 minutes to collect orders? …they’re blaming “food selfies” when there’s no food. This is either a Benihana’s or a Strip Club.

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

    Food in 6 minutes? I’m leaning more toward Benihana’s delivering bowls of Miso Soup.

    “9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat.”

    20% of your customers are sending back cold food?

    I smell a rat.

  • Eden Wong

    I read the article as a sarcastic troll post that was written just for
    laughs. None of the so-called “stats” make any sense… surely no one
    thinks this is for real?!?!

  • prometheus1010

    A restaurant is a business and needs to make money. In places like NYC, where things like rent for the establishment are extremely expensive, having turnover is important. The economics of why you would want more customers is pretty simple.

  • Gerard Henninger

    I understand that businesses want to make money. But restaurants over here make a profit too, because people stay longer, order more drinks/coffee/deserts (?) and go home with a nice feeling about their stay which makes them want to come back.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Yup. BS.

  • Vin Weathermon

    If the restaurant has pushy, rude a-hole staff, there is no reason to spend more money on food and drink during the time the customer is there. Having people take up seats for hours while they spend their money is a good thing (unless the people are so horrible at waiting tables you don’t.)

  • Vin Weathermon

    god I hope you are right…and then this could be removed from PP right?

  • Oj0

    Anyone remember the good ‘ol days before Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? When you had to take a photo of your dinner, then get the film developed, then go around to all your friends’ houses to show them the pictures of your dinner? No? Me neither. Stop it.

  • Mike

    I go to a restaurant to enjoy myself and to socialise, not to follow a time table set up by the restaurant’s bean counters. Michael’s in Santa Monica many years ago asked us to vacate a table and take our drinks elsewhere; we refused and we never returned. A year or two later they went into bankruptcy; I cannot say it was because of their rudeness, but I’ve heard they have changed their attitude toward their customers.

  • bob cooley

    Agreed. Shenanigans.
    The timings are really improbable.

    And NOT sticking up for all the phones out at restaurants, but – if someone does have their phone out when they first get to a restaurant, they are likely checking in on Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. Wait – free social advertising for the establishment.

    You don’t want customers on WiFi? Don’t offer it.

    Food is delivered in 6 minutes – better send it back, its not cooked properly!

    “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.”

    If the food is served hot, it usually takes a minute for the food to cool down to eating temp (be careful touching the plate, its hot!) – if they are taking a couple of minutes to shoot a photo, its a fraction of the time they spend eating, and wait, they have also posted those photos to social media – more free advertising!

    This troll post has been WAY over-reported.

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