Social Proof: A 3 hour line.

A 3 hour wait. That’s what the restaurant told us tonight. It was in a mall, with multiple restaurants all lined up in a row. It’s difficult to walk down a long, narrow, crowded hallway on the way to the host counter at this particular restaurant and there isn’t much room left to sit.

It would have been easy to put a sign outside the restaurant that said, “Wait time approximately 3 hours.” Which would have served two purposes:

  1. If you’re hungry right now, we’re not the place for you. Don’t waste your time checking in with the host, and allow our waiting room , filled with people waiting hours, to be less chaotic.
  2. Display how popular the restaurant is. 3 hour waits are nothing to sneeze at. While it’s not for me because I’m too impatient, social proof is certainly a powerful thing.

Item #1 feels like it’s risky, that it will turn people away, but the wait isn’t going to change whether I read it from a sign, or hear it from the hostess. Three hours doesn’t fit my schedule, so I’m gone regardless of the method of being informed.

The simple, generous act of putting a sign out front to save everyone time can be a positive for everyone. Not everything has to be complicated, simple items can make a big difference on the experience too.