How the Hawthorne Effect Can Improve Your Fast-Casual Restaurant

The benefits of a sophisticated table location management solution are wide-ranging, from higher food quality to faster service and greater efficiency, all adding up to a better guest experience. There’s another benefit, too, more difficult to discern but just as valuable: Your employees will perform more consistently – and even work harder – thanks to a phenomenon first documented by Harvard researchers in the 1920s.

What came to be known as the “Hawthorne Effect” has been debated for decades by social psychologists and organization theorists. Most seem to agree, to varying extents, that people will modify their behavior just because they know their activities are being studied. 

 Productivity at Western Electric

Research indicates a table location management solution could improve staff performance just because people know they are being tracked against benchmarked times.

Research indicates a table location management solution could improve staff performance just because people know they are being tracked against benchmarked times.

One of the biggest factory operations of its time was the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Ill. The company was the manufacturing unit for Bell Telephone System, which then held a monopoly.

More than 40,000 people worked there in the 1920s, building everything from telephones to switchboards and cables. Improving efficiency could have saved Bell a lot of money, but businesses at the time lacked an understanding of the human dynamic in their operations. Beyond physically altering their processes and consolidating the supply chain, they didn’t know what to do.

Along came Elton Mayo, a professor of industrial management at the Harvard Business School. According to Harvard’s historical collection, Mayo arrived at Hawthorne Works in 1928 and led a number of experiments related to whether workers were more productive in bright or low light.

A Surprising Finding: People Respond – When You’re Watching

The surprising finding: Productivity seemed to go up when changes were made – no matter what the changes were – and then went back down as soon as the study ended. Mayo postulated that workers performed better simply because they knew they were being observed.

Another researcher, Henry A. Landsberger, gave the Hawthorne Effect its name in the 1950s while analyzing Mayo’s data. Researchers today argue about the Hawthorne Effect. Some refer to it as a “placebo effect,” while others believe subjects are simply prone to subconsciously changing their behavior to what is expected of them, the so-called “demand effect” or “Pygmalion effect.”

Any way you look at it, setting up a system that observes and collects data on performance has been shown to affect they way people behave.

Translating Mayo’s Findings to the Restaurant Setting

So what does all of this have to do with a
fast-casual restaurant table tracker? Well, for starters, the quality of service in your establishment is second in importance only to the quality of food you serve. Your employees also are your greatest opportunity to improve the guest experience.

On the surface, an advanced Table Tracker solution can speed up food delivery in several ways: Ordering is quicker and food is delivered fresher because guests order instantly as they enter the restaurant and runners no longer wander around looking for table tent numbers. After a while, a sea of actual data can be analyzed to help you optimize your floor plan or improve your staffing levels, among other things.

Underneath all that, the Hawthorne Effect will be at work. Your employees will know they’re on the clock – literally – from the moment an order is placed until it is served hot on the table. And if Dr. Mayo was correct, your staff will be working harder than ever to improve the guest experience, because they know performance is being tracked on site and compared to benchmarked times.

Find Out More About Fast Casuals Are Changing the Restaurant Industry

Complete the form below to download the free eBook, Profitable Restaurants Turn More Tables, for more detail about how faster food delivery improves guest satisfaction and the bottom line.

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