Printer Friendly

Chapter 11 Waiting for service.

Hospitality Principle:

Manage the guest's wait.

Hurry up and wait.

--Old military saying

"Get In Line, Brother"

--Bluegrass gospel song


After reading this chapter, you should understand:

* How to make any wait for service as short and pleasant as possible.

* How to make any wait for service seem short and pleasant.

* How to manage capacity shortages.

* How to manage the guest's perception of the wait.

* How to offset the wait's negative effects by managing the value of the experience provided to the guest.

* What lessons queuing theory holds for hospitality organizations.

* How to solve a simple waiting-line problem mathematically.


arrival patterns

capacity day

managing the wait

multichannel waiting line


queue discipline

queuing theory

single-channel waiting line

waiting-line theory

How long we wait, and how long we are willing to wait, are fascinating subjects. A British Airways TV commercial says we spend eight and a half weeks waiting in lines during the first thirty years of life. Parents put their children on the waiting lists for some exclusive preparatory schools before the children are born. If you want to take your own ride down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, rather than ride in a concession operator's raft, you will have to wait in line, at current use levels, for about twenty years.

Nobody likes to wait in line. Yet, almost every hospitality organization relies on waiting lines to match its serving capacity with the number of guests who want service. Managing the lines and how long customers have to wait in them is one of any service provider's fundamental concerns. This chapter presents some strategies for managing the reality and the perception of the guest's wait for service. These include both quantitative and perceptual strategies. The secret to managing the guest's wait effectively is to use all available techniques, in the appropriate combination, to make a seemingly endless wait acceptable and even enjoyable to the guest. Since nearly every service experience has a wait in it somewhere, managing the wait is sufficiently important to merit its own chapter. In some respects the wait is an inevitable part of the service experience since no organization can perfectly prepare itself to serve all guests, when they want, whatever they want (although McDonald's comes close). In another respect a wait is a service failure. Even if the wait at a popular attraction is no surprise and therefore "meets the guest's expectations," the guest doesn't like it.


The guest experience often starts off not with a wow but a wait. The wait for service begins at the entrance to the restaurant, the busy signal on the phone, or the line in front of Space Mountain at Walt Disney World Resort. The prospective guest or customer assesses the Space Mountain line, the number of cars in the restaurant's parking lot, or the busy signal on the phone and decides whether to walk to the next attraction, drive on to the next restaurant, hang up the phone--or to wait. What makes that guest wait or leave can be managed--if waiting lines are understood. If no other eating places are within eyesight, or the exceedingly hungry guest does not know what other restaurants are available nearby and doesn't want to take time to ask, or the guest is absolutely convinced that he must eat in that restaurant because the quality or uniqueness of the dining experience is said to be unsurpassed, he will probably pull into the parking lot, walk inside, and wait in line.

High expectations explain the large crowds usually standing outside an Outback Steakhouse or Cracker Barrel restaurant. The people waiting believe that the quality or the uniqueness of the dining experience will outweigh the costs to them of waiting, despite the full parking lot and the crowd standing in line outside the restaurant waiting to be served. The same high expectations can explain the lines next to Space Mountain and the other popular attractions throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. In effect, each person makes an opportunity-cost judgment. If the expected benefits of the wait outweigh the costs (boredom and impatience, to name just two) of idly standing around, then the guest will wait. If they don't, the guest will leave and go somewhere else for the service.

For those customers who cannot be served immediately but decide to wait rather than leave, how can the wait be made as short and as pleasant as possible? No matter how good the Space Mountain ride or the Cracker Barrel meal is, if the customer begins the experience angry, distressed, or unhappy about having to wait for service, that customer's expectations will be much harder to meet.


Managing the wait has two major components. First is keeping the wait as short as possible by ensuring that the appropriate capacity has been built into the service facility to minimize the wait for the anticipated number of guests arriving at the anticipated rate. Second is ensuring that the guests who are waiting have their psychological needs and expectations met while they wait.

The capacity decision results from careful study of the expected demand pattern. Whether one is trying to determine how many copier machines to buy to serve a law office, how many toll booths to install on the expressway, how many phone lines to run into a travel agency, or how many blackjack tables to put in a casino, the need to make an accurate capacity estimate is the same. Management must predict three factors: how many people will arrive for the service, at what rate they will arrive, and how long the service will take. These three factors drive the capacity decision.

If, on every day that the organization is open for business, the same number of people were to arrive for service every day, their arrivals were evenly spaced throughout the day, and serving each person took the same length of time, the capacity decision would be easy. For example, a psychiatrist can schedule eight patients per day, schedule them to arrive on the hour, then serve each patient for forty-five minutes and use the remaining fifteen minutes to write up notes on that patient and prepare for the next. That psychiatrist has an easy capacity decision: one service facility (an office) containing one chair for the psychiatrist and one couch for the patient, plus other furnishings and equipment for one office. If the service is a guided tour through a museum, the service provider knows how long it will take, but the museum's management must predict how many people will arrive for service. If the service has a less definite beginning and ending time, like a meal or a hospital stay, both the number of persons arriving for service and the average time taken to deliver the service will have to be estimated or predicted. We will discuss several methods for making these predictions later in this chapter.

Capacity designs can affect perceptions of service quality. A restaurant with too many seats will appear empty to diners. The scarcity of other patrons may lead those who did come in and sit down to conclude that the food or service is not up to par. This assumption predisposes guests to expect a poor experience. Further, they may feel foolish for choosing a restaurant that is so obviously unpopular. The chefs and the servers have two strikes against them, just because the restaurant designers put in too many seats.

Of course, from the restaurant owner's point of view, the excess capacity costs money! Fixed costs are tied up in unused tables, silverware, equipment, rent, and so forth. Too much capacity may also mean higher variable costs as well. The manager may have to hire servers to cover the extra seats, just in case someone shows up to sit in them.


In an ideal world, the organization would have the exact capacity required to serve each guest immediately. Each customer for Cracker Barrel or Space Mountain would arrive just when a table or an empty car was available to provide the desired experience. Guests want that kind of service, and organizations want to provide it. Both are frequently disappointed.

What to Do?

Because people do not arrive at service operations in neat, ordered patterns, they sometimes have to wait for service. When the organization sees that its waiting lines are becoming unacceptably long, hospitality managers face several choices: (1)

1. Close the Doors to Further Customers. This choice is highly undesirable, but sometimes the movie theater manager or rock show entrepreneur must tell those waiting, "Sorry, we're full."

2. Add Capacity. Because this alternative is usually expensive, organizations do not usually choose it unless they believe the high demand causing the waiting lines will continue. The organization will be particularly hesitant to add capacity if its design-day capacity is already at a high percent level, meaning that the organization is already at or below capacity most of the time. Stopgap measures for adding capacity temporarily are sometimes available. For example, employees can be asked to work overtime, a swat-team approach can be used to reassign employees from their normal areas to help unclog a service bottleneck, temporary help can be hired, or physical facilities like tents can be rented.

3. Manage Demand. Simply informing guests of when the busy and slack times occur may smooth out demand. Service providers can also schedule appointments or offer inducements to customers to use capacity at nonpeak demand times. Requiring reservations at a restaurant is an example of the first method, and early-bird specials or discounts on electricity at off-peak times are examples of the second.

Reservations or appointments can be somewhat useful and even necessary when excess capacity is too expensive to lie idle, such as on an airliner, at a concert, or in an expensive restaurant. But most hospitality organizations do not have the market stature to insist that their guests make reservations, nor is the opportunity cost to the guest for not receiving the specific service at the specific time usually so great that the guest is willing to make reservations. When the airline is the only one able to fly you to Nashville at the time you need to be there, or the restaurant is the only place that you think will impress your client, only then will you bother to make a reservation and thereby help the organization efficiently manage its capacity.

Another way to manage demand is by shifting demand. When the wait times for popular attractions became excessive, Disney shifted demand by creating a special after-hours ticket called "Magic Kingdom's E-Ride Nights." The ticket sold for $10 and provided guests unlimited access to the nine most popular attractions for an additional three hours after the normal park close. To guarantee the guests minimal wait times on the nine attractions, the tickets sold each night were limited to a fixed number of guests and were sold in advance at the Disney resorts on a first-come, first-served basis. The actual number of tickets sold was limited to match the capacity of the nine attractions open.

The guests who paid $10 for the right to spend an extra three hours after normal closing time to ride their favorite rides as many times as they wanted to were happy and thought they got a great deal. They did not have to stand in long lines with everybody else waiting for these rides during the day. Regular daytime guests were also happier; their lines were shorter because the E-Ride Nights guests were no longer in the lines during the day. In effect, Disney expanded park capacity by shifting demand, but unlike the power company that gives customers a lower rate at off-peak times or the restaurant that offers low-cost early-bird specials, Disney was able to charge more and guests were happy to pay; they felt they got good value for their money.

4. Allow the Line to Form and Then Manage the Line by Diverting Customers. Offer people waiting in line something else to do. Having a gift shop in a Hard Rock Cafe or Rainforest Cafe gives patrons someplace to go and something to do while they wait for the service that brought them to the organization. These diversions can become highly profitable, sometimes more profitable than the service product itself. Rainforest Cafe even calls itself "A wild place to shop and eat." An organization may go so far as to close down some available capacity to ensure that people wait long enough to become "diverted" to the gift shop, with its high-margin items for sale. Or an organization may keep a phone caller on hold longer than absolutely necessary to present a recorded message promoting other services. A related strategy is to upgrade a low-demand aspect of the organization's service to divert customers toward it and away from high-demand features. As an example, Disney upgraded The Swiss Family Tree House so that people would be willing to get out of the Space Mountain line and stand in the shorter Swiss Family Tree House line. Or entertainment can be offered to those waiting in line. Strolling bands at Disney go to the longest lines to provide diversion for those waiting. Restaurants frequently have a bar with entertainment so that guests waiting for a table can have a drink and listen to some music.

From their own daily experience, most people can cite numerous examples of organizations that allow lines to form, then manage them well or poorly.

5. Do Nothing. The organization can accept the fact that it will have unhappy customers and hope that they aren't so unhappy that they vow never to return.

As an example of how one type of hospitality organization might use these options, a theme park could choose from: limit attendance by closing the park, build a new ride or expand a present ride, reenergize rides that are less preferred, and provide entertainment for the waiting lines, or simply accept higher levels of customer dissatisfaction. Customer-focused research can identify the best strategy. The goal is to find the decision that ensures customer satisfaction with the lowest capital cost. This decision allows both customers and the organization to come out ahead.

Design Day

Whether they realize it or not, or whether they do it consciously or not, all hospitality organizations use the design day concept (also discussed in Chapter 2). The design day is the hypothetical day that the facility, attraction, or service was designed to handle comfortably, but not too comfortably. The design-day capacity is set to handle a predetermined amount of demand without compromising guest satisfaction. If demand is less than the design-day model, then guests are happy but the facility is underutilized. If demand exceeds the design-day capacity, then some guests will probably be unhappy. Waiting lines may form on design days, but they will not exceed the length where guests perceive a decline in the quality or value of their experience.

Benchmark organizations know just how long the lines can be and still remain within limits acceptable to guests. A major theme park might use a fifteen-minute average wait as its criterion. On the design day, it doesn't want anyone to wait longer than this average time because guest surveys have shown that the quality and value of the experience decline sharply beyond this time length. Because fifteen minutes is an average, it may take much longer to get on a popular ride. However, based on the accumulated data, a fifteen-minute average may be the best balance between having too much capacity and not enough. A truly guest-focused theme park may set its design day at a very high level, say 80 to 90 percent--meaning that supply will be adequate for demand on 80 to 90 percent of the days of the year--because it appreciates the fact that most guests have traveled a long way, have limited vacation time, and have no choice but to wait. To provide a guest experience of high quality, the organization will set the design day percentile high and built more capacity than might otherwise be practical. The cost of an unhappy guest to a major theme park that relies on return guest visits must be carefully balanced against the costs of building capacity.

The Capacity Day

Design days are the times when capacity is the best trade-off for both the guest and the facility--not ideal for either one, but satisfactory. Many organizations also calculate and use a capacity day, the maximum number of customers allowed in the facility in a day or at one time. This number is often set by the fire marshal based on the number of square feet each customer must have available. The capacity day may be set by the organization itself, to represent a point beyond which overall customer dissatisfaction with crowds, lines, or delays in service is unacceptable. Hospitality organizations know that guests disappointed because they did not have the guest experience at all are preferable to dissatisfied, angry ones who did.

QUEUING THEORY: MANAGING THE REALITY OF THE WAIT Few organizations in any industry have the luxury of adjusting capacity quickly or managing demand by getting customers to show up when the organization wants them to, instead of when customers want to come. Most hospitality organizations must therefore rely on predicting and managing the inevitable waiting lines that are created when customers arrive looking for service.

The general problem for the organization is that adding servers costs more but reduces the wait, which improves guest-experience quality, guest satisfaction, and guest loyalty. Reducing servers saves money but increases the wait, which decreases guest-experience quality, guest satisfaction, and guest loyalty. How is the hospitality organization to find the proper cost-benefit balance?

The place to begin is in the use of queuing theory, sometimes called waiting-line theory, and the mathematical solutions this technique offers. A typical queuing-theory problem might be: If an average of forty cars per hour arrive at a drive-through window with a single server, and if it takes the server an average of two minutes to fill an order, how long does the average car spend in line? During an average hour, how many minutes will the server be working and how many minutes idle? Most applications of waiting-line theory in the hospitality industry are based on the idea that people do not arrive in neat patterns. The typical approach is to sample the arrival and service patterns of guests and use this information to simulate the distribution that best matches the reality for the particular organization's guests. A restaurant might actually count all of its guests over a period of time or sample them over a longer period using some appropriate sampling methodology and let the actual guest patterns represent the distribution of both arrival and service times.

Characteristics of Waiting Lines

All waiting lines have three characteristics that any model must include:

1. Arrival Patterns: The Numbers of Guests Arriving and the Manner in Which They Enter the Waiting Line. The arrivals could be random like patrons to a restaurant, in bulk like a bus load of tourists, or in some other distribution that is difficult to describe, like patients coming to a hospital emergency room in varying but not completely random intervals. Queue management is easiest when customer arrivals can be scheduled. Even if arrivals cannot be strictly scheduled, they can be controlled. Charging extra at popular times and offering discounts during the off season would be examples of arrival-control strategies.

2. Queue Discipline: How the Arriving Guests Are Served. Options are first-come, first-served; last-come, first-served (not a formula for hospitality success), or some other set of service rules. For example, guests with reservations or wanting takeout food only may be served first, or restaurant parties of two may be served when a two-seat table is available regardless of how many parties of three or more are in line ahead of them. Guests understand such a service rule. They don't understand an implicit rule like the following, which seems to be in effect at numerous service locations: "Answer a phone call from someone sitting at home before serving the customer or guest standing right in front of you who may have traveled miles to do business with you."

The guests themselves can usually be counted on to maintain the discipline of the first-come, first-served queue. If someone breaks into the line in front of you, queue etiquette requires you to object and those in line behind you to support you. If the queue discipline in a certain grocery store line is first-come, first-served, no more than ten items, customers count each other's items and may forcefully object to a number over ten.

3. Time for Service: How Long It Takes to Serve Guests. The time boundaries of some service experiences can be carefully managed, like a flight from Boston to Atlanta, or a ride in a roller coaster car. But customers in most service settings vary, voluntarily or involuntarily, in the time it takes them to receive the service. Some diners want to eat and run; others wish to savor the meal. Likewise, some hospital emergency-room patients suffer from severe wounds while others have trivial problems. The amount of time it takes to serve the different customers can be as unpredictable as the people themselves. If the waiting-line model is going to be an aid in managing the line, it must take this variation into account. Although the previous examples involve people, waiting-line theory can be applied to anything that waits in line for something to happen to it. An automobile waiting in a fully automated painting line or a meal waiting to be served is as queued up and in need of managing as the newly arriving guest at the hotel front desk.

Line Types

In the following discussion, "channel" refers to a server, and "phase" refers to a step in the service experience once it is underway.

Single-Channel, Single-Phase

The basic line type is the single-channel, single-phase queue--one server, one step. This queue type is represented as the top illustration in Figure 11-1. Mary Blaine has a one-chair hair cuttery. Customers come in, wait their turn, and have their hair cut in the single service phase. Indoor customers at some quick-serve restaurants stand in any one of several single-channel, single-phase queues. The customer looks the lines over, chooses one, stands in it waiting for service, and eventually reaches the counter to begin the single service phase. In that phase, the counter person takes the order, assembles and delivers it, and collects the money. Highway toll plazas and McDonald's counters are not the sites of multi-channel queues, even though they may have multiple servers. They consist of a group of single-channel, single-phase queues, with one server per queue.

Single-Channel, Multiphase

The second queue type in the figure is the single-channel, multiphase queue, like a cafeteria line or the drive-through at a limited-menu, fast-serve facility. Essentially, it is two or more single-channel, single-phase queues in sequence. The guest waits in one queue for service from a single server, then moves on to wait in another queue for another phase of service from another single server. At a typical drive-through restaurant, customers queue up for the first phase. Each customer drives up to the order microphone, tries to understand what the person (the server, the single channel providing the first phase of service) inside the restaurant is saying, places an order (end of first phase) and then queues up again waiting to move forward to the window to receive and pay for the order (second phase, meaning another single channel for service with a single server). In this guest experience, the customer interacts with the organization twice, at two different places.


The multiphase setup did not work for Service Merchandise Company, which closed 134 stores in 1999 to avoid bankruptcy. The stores operated under a catalog-showroom concept. Customers purchased discounted items by taking a product number to a cash register and then taking a payment voucher to a warehouse counter. But customers did not like the catalog-showroom format. As a company spokesperson admitted of the format, "It kept prices down, but it didn't offer a high level of customer service. People don't want to wait in two lines." (2)

Multichannel, Single-Phase

A third type is the multichannel, single-phase queue. The customer begins in a single line that then feeds into multiple channels or stations for the service, each staffed by a server. The customer waits to get to the front of the single line, then goes to the next available channel (server) for service. An example would be a bank or airline waiting line where everyone stands in a single queue, often snake-shaped to fit into available space, waiting for an open channel to any one of multiple servers. The queue discipline is to call the next person in the line to the next available teller, airline-counter attendant, telephone operator, or career counselor, who renders a single service in a single phase. The Federal Personnel Office uses this method for incoming telephone calls. The automated system tells each caller how many callers are ahead, so the caller can decide whether to wait or call back later. The single phase of service is to have a phone call answered. The multiple channels for obtaining this service are the many operators handling calls. The queue is managed by having the next available operator handle the next caller waiting in line. Many hospitality organizations find this method the most efficient way to manage their lines as it accounts well for the varying lengths of time that it takes to serve different customers. Everyone has had the experience of choosing to stand in one of several available single-channel lines--at the movie-theater refreshment stand, for example, or the hotel front desk--then watching all the other lines move much more quickly. The use of a multichannel, single-phase system eliminates this feeling of inequity or bad luck; everyone starts out in the same line.

Multichannel, Multiphase

The last type of waiting line shown in Figure 11-1 is the most complicated to manage: the multichannel, multiphase queue system. Essentially, it is two or more multichannel, single-phase queues in sequence. The guest waits to get to the front of one line, then goes to the next available server. After receiving the first phase of service, the guest then gets in another line, waits to arrive at the front, then goes to the next available server/channel to receive the next phase of service. The Pepper Market, a cafeteria in Orlando's Coronado Springs Hotel, uses this pattern between its single-channel entry and exit points. At the entry point, the guest lines up to receive a "charge card" to be used at the different food stations. The guest then sees lines leading to each of several entrees and takes a place at the end of, say, the seafood line. The guest waits to become first in line, then goes to the next available seafood entree server. The guest follows the same procedure for bread, dessert, vegetable, and so forth. The guest then gets in a checkout line and turns the charge card in to a cashier, who totals up all the purchases.


A hospitality organization will often have numerous queues linked together in various combinations. For example, a restaurant will have a line for people waiting to be seated, a wait time while the server serves other customers in a queue ahead of you before coming to take your order, a line of orders queued up for processing by the cook, a queue of servers waiting while the food is being prepared, and a line of people at the checkout. To consider just the line of people waiting to be seated, it is a multichannel, single-phase queue, if the restaurant tables are considered to be channels and being seated is considered to be a phase. Managing the wait times associated with single and multiple channels and phases is difficult, but it is critical for ensuring excellent guest service.

Which Queue to Use?

Common sense suggests that the best queue type for an organization to use is the one that enables guests to begin receiving service as rapidly as possible. The guestologist knows that the best line type is the one that customers prefer. For example, they may prefer to stand in a certain type of line because they think they will be served faster, even if they won't. McDonald's believes that its several single-channel, single-phase lines serve more customers more quickly. Wendy's, Burger King, and most other quick-serve restaurants use the single-channel, multiphase queue, with customers placing an order at one location and moving to another to pick it up. At some other quick-serve restaurants and many airline counters, all customers get into one line, often a line that snakes between posts and velvet ropes. Once the customer reaches the head of the line, the customer waits to enter whichever channel leads to the next available server or attendant.

People seem to prefer the single serpentine queue, even though the length of the single line can be intimidating. They don't have to think or worry about which line to choose, or about whether to change lines if the present line seems slow or another line seems to have gotten shorter, or whether someone joining the next line over will unfairly be served more quickly. According to Burger King studies, people standing in single-channel, single-phase lines like those at McDonald's experience "tremendous stress." (3)

Line Simulation: A Gift Shop

While a statistical distribution can be used to describe the arrival and service patterns of many standard queues, in some situations only a simulation will yield the quality of data necessary to explain and predict the reality of a particular queue. Here is how a simulation might work. The Christmas Tree is an extremely successful Christmas-themed restaurant; their slogan, "Make every day like Christmas!" appeals to young and old. Because Christmas-related items are available in regular stores only during the holiday season, Rudolph's Gift Shop attached to the Christmas Tree does a huge business during the rest of the year. In fact, many customers come to the location to shop at Rudolph's rather than dine at the Christmas Tree.

Rudolph's has twenty checkout counters, which if fully staffed would require two people at each, for a total of forty people. If on an average day only fifty customers are typically in the shop at any one time, then full staffing of the checkout counters would be an obvious waste of money because the probability of all fifty people moving to the checkout lines at the same time is infinitely small. But if Rudolph's opens only one checkout counter, a long line will soon form. What staffing level best balances the cost of staffing Rudolph's checkouts against the cost of lost customers who vow never to return because of the long lines or lost sales as customers abandon their carts full of Christmas items and walk out?

Observing the Flow

Over several weeks the shop manager can observe the flow of customers and time how long they are in the shop. If sufficient observations are made, the shop manager can create distributions that accurately describe customer arrival patterns, the quantity of items that they bring to the checkout stand, and their time spent in Rudolph's shopping for those items. With this information the manager can then simulate the shopping experiences of Rudolph's customers to determine how to staff the checkout counters appropriately at different times and on different days of the week. Here is how that might be done.

Allocation Wheels

In his office, the manager could set up the two roulette wheels that appear in Figure 112. Spaces are allocated on the first wheel to represent, in percentage form, the time between customer arrivals at the checkout counters. From the observations already made, the shop knows that for 15 percent of their observations, the time between arrivals at checkout was zero minutes; people arrived simultaneously. For 20 percent the time between arrivals was one minute; for 25 percent, the time was two minutes; for 10 percent the time was three minutes. For another 10 percent, the time was four minutes, for 12 percent five minutes, and for 8 percent six minutes. The wheel has spaces reflecting these arrival-pattern percentages. To simulate the arrival patterns of the customers at checkout, the manager would merely spin the wheel and write on a chart the arrival interval noted in the section of the wheel when it stopped.

The second wheel in Figure 11-2 is, in similar fashion, portioned off to represent the observations about how long the customers took to go through the checkout process. This total would include the time to scan the purchased items, write the checks or pay cash, and wrap or bag the purchases. Since people vary in both quantity of purchases and speed of writing checks or making payment, the time for service and the proportions on the wheel representing those times would likewise vary. The observations might reveal that 5 percent of the time the transaction took one minute, 15 percent of the time two minutes, 20 percent took three minutes, 25 percent took four minutes, 15 percent took five minutes, 10 percent took six minutes, 5 percent seven minutes, and 5 percent eight minutes. This distribution is represented on the second wheel in the figure.

Now the manager can execute the simulation by spinning the first wheel to randomly determine the time between customer arrivals and spinning the second wheel to determine how long each guest took to be served once in a checkout line. By recording the numbers on a simple chart that notes the time between arrivals, times for service and, finally, the time customers were waiting, the entire day's activities can be simulated to determine the maximum, minimum, and average length of time customers waited for service plus the total waiting time for all the customers. The chart would simulate a day's activities by beginning when the shop opens and recording the arrivals throughout the day until it closes. Running this simulation many times (typically more than 100 on a computerized model) would allow the Rudolph's manager to draw some statistical conclusions about the length of waiting time, checkout capacity utilization, and the impact on waiting (and guest perception of the quality and value of the experience) that opening up more checkout stands and adding more capacity would have.

Although this is a fairly simple illustration, it does show the usefulness of determining mathematically the relationship between the service provider's capacity and the average waiting time for the guest in a way that allows the hospitality organization to find the ideal balance between the two. This same technique can be used to determine the ideal number of monorails in a theme park, toll booths on a turnpike, front-desk people in a hotel, servers and cooks in a restaurant, spaces in a parking lot, nurses in an emergency room, or any other application where an organization needs to balance the costs of providing capacity with the quality of the service experience. Certain basic forces affect waiting lines, and they can be expressed mathematically. An explanation of the mathematics of waiting lines appears in the chapter appendix.

Balancing Capacity and Demand

Determining the proper balance between supply and demand requires more calculations than just the basics. The gift shop in the earlier example must gather more data about customer behaviors and expectations. If, for example, it finds in interviewing or merely observing its customers that when the wait is longer than five minutes they will put down their selections and leave the shop without buying anything, then a wait longer than five minutes is unacceptable no matter what the remaining data might reveal. On the other hand, if the surveyed customers reveal strong shop loyalty, a competitive advantage for the shop because it is unique in providing holiday items throughout the year, or a clientele with a lack of anything better to do with their time in a market populated with retired or otherwise less time-sensitive customers, then the shop might choose to let the lines grow without much adjustment. The essential feature of the calculation is to determine that point beyond which the length of the wait damages the quality of the guest experience beyond the level acceptable to the guest and the organization.

Once the capacity-and-demand balance decision has been made, the organization now must plan for accommodating the inevitable lines created by uneven demand patterns. Here the challenge is to manage the wait in such a way that the guest is satisfied with it. Two major dimensions are involved. The first is the way the time spent waiting feels to the guest, and the second dimension is how to minimize the negative effects of the wait by managing the value of the experience to the guest. The organization wants each guest to conclude that the experience was well worth the wait.


Understanding what makes time fly while waiting in line is a fundamental concern for managers seeking to improve the quality of the customer wait. Guestologists have found that time flies not only when you're having fun but under other circumstances. Hospitality managers must remember that everyone is different, and these differences will influence how people feel about waiting in line. And how they feel about the wait is at least as important as how long the wait is.

1. Occupied Time Feels Shorter Than Unoccupied Time. If you are busy doing something while you are waiting, the time seems to go by faster. Most line waits can be made more enjoyable and made to feel less lengthy if there is something for guests to do--if they can be distracted or diverted in some way.

Disney is the master of managing time waits by giving its guests something to divert them from thinking about the wait. If the line for a particular Walt Disney World Resort attraction has become extraordinarily long, a strolling band or acrobats or some other distraction arrives to entertain and occupy the guests while they wait. For long lines, Universal Studios spaces television sets showing a video or movie. People can watch an interesting program while moving toward the entrance to the attraction.

2. Time Spent Waiting to Begin the Service Experience Will Feel Longer Than Time Actually Spent in the Experience Itself. Hospitality organizations therefore try to find ways to minimize how long the wait "feels." Theme parks and other entertainment attractions may offer pre-attraction features termed the preshow. Guests feel in a sense that they are already in the attraction, though they are mainly still standing in line. For example, people standing in line to get into the Enchanted Tiki Room hear a caged Audio-Animatronics bird telling bad jokes. Time seems to pass more quickly for guests when they are watching a preshow or preview of the main attraction--almost as if the attraction itself has started.

The airlines send roving people down long lines waiting to check in, to begin the contact with the people that makes them feel someone is finally taking care of them. Avis rental car quickly gathers up people at the airport terminal contact point and shuttles them to an offsite facility where the line may be quite long and the wait substantial, but customers feel that Avis is at least doing something to take care of them. This strategy has the additional benefit of getting customers away from competing rental counters. Out at the off-site facility, they will wait longer in line because they cannot simply move to the competitor at the next counter.

Another way to spend time is to teach customers in line what they are supposed to do once they reach the actual event or attraction. The education provided during the wait time can improve or enhance the service experience and, in that way, actually becomes part of the experience. Many customers waiting in a fast-food line use the time to evaluate the menu items to select what they want. If they could walk right up to the counter, they would still need the time to review the menu options; they would then feel awkward about being at the front of a forming line unprepared to be served. Having time to stand in a line is, for these customers, an advantage.

Many restaurants give patrons standing in line a menu to look over while awaiting their table. This gives customers something to do and not only speeds up the ordering process once customers are seated but gives them the impression that the service experience has begun. Having a cocktail waitress serve waiting guests or providing a complimentary beverage if the wait is unusually long accomplishes the same purpose.

3. Anxious Waits Feel Longer Than More Relaxed Waits. If people are afraid of what will happen to them once the service experience begins, the wait will seem longer. If people are sitting in an airplane that is obviously waiting for something to be fixed before it takes off, people will become quite anxious about what is wrong with the plane or what malfunction is holding it up, and the wait will feel long. If you are waiting in a hospital room, perhaps to receive the results of a diagnostic procedure, the wait will seem to drag. Sometimes, organizations want to create a little anxiety. The school principal may let the ill-behaved child waiting for punishment wait a little longer than necessary. Waiting to enter a scary ride at an amusement park will only enhance the effect of the ride.

4. Waits of Uncertain Length Feel Longer Than Certain Ones. Anyone who has ever been at an airport waiting on a flight that is delayed for an unknown reason will know that such a wait feels endless. Sitting and waiting without knowing when the delay will be over causes any wait to feel much longer. Let your guests know what to expect. A time estimate can help the customer set a mental clock to let time pass more quickly until that preset time is reached. Telling phone callers how many callers are ahead of them in the phone queue serves the same purpose. Disney uses sign boards to tell guests how long before they enter the attraction from their point in line. Generally, they overestimate the time because guests are always happy when they get to the ride faster than they thought they would but never happy when they get there later. This is one reason why patients want doctors to be on time for scheduled appointments. Once the appointment time is reached, in the patient's mind it is time to be served, and any time spent after that is uncertain and long.

5. Unexplained Waits Feel Longer Than Explained Waits. When you don't know what is holding up the line or causing the delay, then the wait will feel longer than if you know the reason. If traffic stops and your view ahead is blocked so you can't see why, the wait will feel long. If service is delayed, customers want to know why. Effective managers of waits will tell them or provide a visual cue that can explain the wait. For example, a line at a restaurant can be structured so customers can see that all the tables are full, or at a bank so one can see that all the tellers are busy. On the other hand, effective managers of queues will ensure that front-desk attendants or airline check-in staff doing something other than waiting on customers are kept out of sight of customers, so that they do not have to explain why their personnel are not serving customers. Restaurant managers try to keep empty tables out of sight; otherwise people queued up for a meal will think their wait does not have a legitimate explanation, and it will feel long. Restaurant guests do not buy the explanation, "That section is closed."

6. Unfair Waits Feel Longer Than Fair Ones. If customers feel that the queue discipline is being consistently followed and fairly used, then the wait seems less long than it does when people are allowed to get away with cutting in line, or people are being served out of the apparent sequence of service order. Good organizations recognize this truth and manage their lines with this knowledge in mind. At times, VIP guests or some other special category of guest requires that the line discipline be broken. The layout of waiting lines into twisting maze patterns enables VIPs to be inserted subtly into line. These guests are integrated into the line flow so smoothly that those waiting do not usually notice that the discipline has been interrupted.

Organizations who for one reason or another need to break the queue discipline must find some way to communicate a reason for the apparent unfairness that customers will accept after hearing it. Time-honored reasons are "Lady with a baby!" and "Women and children first!" Passengers needing assistance go onto planes first, and nobody minds. No one complains if a disabled person goes to the front of the line. Seating a party of four at a restaurant before seating waiting parties of six or more seldom creates guest complaints or problems for the restaurant; everyone knows that almost all tables are set up for smaller parties and that some juggling must be done to accommodate the larger party.

7. Solo Waits Feel Longer Than Group Waits. Waiting by yourself feels longer than waiting in a group of friends, or even a group you don't know. Organizations recognizing this perceptual issue try to organize their lines in such a way that people are grouped with other people. A double line would under this logic feel shorter than a single line, and a line structure that encourages people to interact so they feel like members of a group feels shorter than one in which the people are allowed to stay inside their own personal and highly individual spaces. In waiting-room areas, organizations can arrange the seating so as to promote interaction and a sense of being part of a group.

8. Uncomfortable Waits Feel Longer Than Comfortable Ones. All hospitality organizations dread seeing guests queued up in the hot sun, rain, or other uncomfortable conditions. Finding a way to keep people comfortable in outdoor queues while they wait to enter an air-conditioned environment is a real managerial challenge. Obviously, such devices as paddle fans, awnings, or artificially created shade can be useful for making the wait feel more comfortable and less lengthy.

9. Interesting Waits Are Shorter Than Uninteresting Ones. We have already said that occupied waits are shorter than unoccupied waits. This principle is true even if the activity in which one is occupied is only "busy work." But if you are occupied in doing something interesting while you wait, the time will seem even shorter.

10. Happy Waits Are Shorter Than Sad Ones. While this perhaps goes without saying in most situations, it is part of the perception of the waiting experience. Customers who are having fun, enjoying themselves, and feeling positive about the wait itself and the service experience to come will find the wait to be shorter than those who are unhappy, sullen, or feeling negative about waiting. Managers need to keep happy customers happy and make unhappy customers feel better about waiting. Using clowns is one way to turn unhappy children into happy ones. Professional comics warm up their audiences; they get them laughing during the wait, to make sure that when the television cameras come on, the guests are ready to have fun and laugh.

The Emotional Wait State

In all of these waiting situations and especially the last one, the customer's emotional state will have a significant impact on the wait for service. Different people react differently to anxiety, uncertainty, discomfort, and other perceptual influences on the waiting time.

Crowds and Clientele

If the waiting line being managed is large and diverse, then the "typical customer" will drive the design of the line and the associated wait. While hospitality managers should consider personality variables as much as possible in designing and managing waits, the line for large crowds must necessarily be designed to accommodate what the normal, average guest expects when entering the wait process. If the people in line are a more select clientele with identifiable features, such as a queue at an upscale restaurant or hotel, then variability in treatment of the waiting guests may be possible and even necessary to ensure that the quality of the entire experience, including the wait, meets the guest expectations for that upscale level of service. You want to make the wait enjoyable or at least bearable, and that is harder to do with a mass-market audience than with a select, known clientele, for reasons other than the size of the mob.

Waits in Contrast

In all of these waiting situations, the contrast effect will also influence the perception of the wait. If a customer has just had a comfortable, totally explained, predictable wait, followed by a subsequent wait that is unpredictable, anxiety producing, and of uncertain length, the second wait will seem longer than if a well-managed wait had not just occurred. Similarly, if a customer has just had a long wait, a short one will feel even shorter in contrast. If the guest has just been in a wait where employees were friendly and all servers were busy, that wait will seem shorter than a wait in which employees pay minimal attention to guests and some are engaged in activities other than serving people in line.

The key is to remember that the customer, client, or guest perceives the wait. If the objective data say the wait at your place is not too long or the wait at your company is actually shorter than it is at a competitor's, that doesn't matter to customers who think they have waited too long for your service. Customers have mental clocks in their minds that tell them when the wait is too long or just right and extremely well managed. Managing the perception is as effective a technique as managing the actual waiting time, and if the organization is particularly good at managing perceptions, it can make even very long waits acceptable and tolerable to customers.


The more value the customer receives or expects to receive from the service, the more patiently the customer will wait. Since the customer defines the value of services rendered, the second major strategy for managing the perception of the wait is to manage the perceived value of the service for which the customer is waiting. This strategy can be implemented before, during, or even after the service is delivered.

Before Service

Before receiving the service, waiting customers can be provided with information (or even with some other service) that will enhance the value of the service that motivated them to enter the queue in the first place. A hotel, for example, can enhance the perceived value of the guest experience by offering guests waiting in line some champagne or have them entertained by a chamber-music group. Such thoughtful touches not only distract and occupy the guest, they also add value to the experiences that the hotel and restaurant are selling and for which the guest must wait in line.

During Service

During the performance of the service itself, its value (to the customer and as defined by the customer, as always) can be enhanced over the customer's expectations by a number of strategies. The organization will want to employ these strategies in any event, but the idea here is that if the service meets or exceeds expectations when the customer gets it, the wait was worth it.

In addition to providing customers with a service that is beyond their expectations in the first place, some more subtle actions can enhance the value of the service experience. Some restaurants believe in hanging signed photographs of celebrities who have eaten in the restaurant; doctors display diplomas from famous medical schools to indicate the high quality of their training. These touches tend to encourage the guest or patient to think that the meal and the medical treatment were worth the wait. As a more direct response to the wait, the server could apologize for it, which adds a personal touch that may increase the value of the experience for the guest. Hops Restaurant promises to "make a wait for your table as comfortable as possible with complimentary menu samples, beer samples, or soft drinks." These are all examples of how the value of the service to the customer can be enhanced even as it is being delivered. These enhancements all make the wait seem shorter in retrospect than it actually was; an excellent service experience diminishes the ill effects of the wait.

After Service

After the service, the value of the experience in the eyes of customers can sometimes be enhanced, so they feel better about having taken the time to wait on the service in the first place. Although advertising is generally used to attract the attention of potential customers, people who have already purchased services are even more attentive to ads than those who have not. The ads reinforce the wisdom of not only purchasing the service but also of waiting in line to do so. Of course ads seen ahead of time can also reduce the effects of the wait while it is in progress; the ads have convinced customers that the experience will be good, so they wait more patiently. A phone call to a customer after the service experience, asking for reactions to it, can enhance the value of the experience and reduce the negative effects of the wait. Once Honda and a few other car dealers started calling up customers after they left the dealership to ask about the quality of the service experience, the other dealers had to make the calls, too. This type of personal attention after the experience can help compensate for the wait before the experience.

Managing Waits in an Imperfect World

Managing the waiting line is a fundamental challenge for managers in the hospitality industry. The service cannot be stockpiled or inventoried, and the organization must find the right balance between having enough capacity to fill demand and having so much capacity that some sits idle most of the time. In a perfect world, the flow of customers matches the supply exactly. When one guest gets up to leave the restaurant, another walks in the door looking for lunch. When one guest finishes with the concierge, another arrives to ask a question, and so on across the entire range of services offered by organizations. In our less than perfect world, getting customers into the service setting and meeting their time expectations requires effective queue management.

Lessons Learned

1. Manage the wait; don't just let it happen.

2. Know how long your guests are willing to wait patiently.

3. Know the psychology of managing waiting lines.

4. Use waiting-line models to understand how your queues work.

5. Try to minimize the negative effects of the wait before, during, and after the guest experience.

6. Find out how much a dissatisfied guest costs you; that will motivate you to manage the wait for your guests more carefully.

Review Questions

1. "Just about every full-fledged guest experience has at least one wait somewhere within it." True or false?

A. If false, name some guest experiences that do not involve a wait.

B. Indicate some common front-of-the-house waits (as opposed to out-of-sight waits like queued up food orders) during a typical guest's experience at a casual restaurant like Bennigan's, Olive Garden, or Red Lobster. Which ones should be managed, and which ones can be left alone to take care of themselves?

C. Indicate some common back-of-the-house waits, unseen by the guest, during a typical guest's experience at such a casual restaurant. Which ones should be managed, and which ones can be left alone to take care of themselves?

2. Think of a pleasant or enjoyable wait you have experienced within a hospitality setting.

Think of an unpleasant or annoying wait.

A. What strategies described in this chapter did the organization's managers use or fail to use that caused your wait to be one kind or the other?

B. Did they employ any strategies not covered in the chapter?

3. What strategies are available to match the capacity of a hospitality organization with the demand for its services? Which strategies work best and under what circumstances?

4. This chapter explained how a theme park might use the design-day concept.

A. How might the concept be used by a hotel, a restaurant, and an airline?

B. Is the concept as applicable to those other organizations as to a theme park?

C. If so, what are the common elements that facilitate applicability? If not, why is that?

5. Give some examples from your own experience of the different queue types in Figure 11-1. Did the queue type used seem to fit the situation? Was it readily apparent why the organization chose it? If you have to wait, which line type do you prefer and why?

6. You are the front-desk manager of a popular hotel, and you are frustrated by the number of guests you see waiting impatiently in line to check in and check out. Compare the advantages and disadvantages (and the costs and benefits, if you can) of relieving this situation by:

A. setting up and using simulation wheels like those in Figure 11-2

B. using some of the techniques in the chapter for managing the feel of the wait

C. cross-training some employees so they can help out at the front desk during busy times

7. Some organizations, restaurants in particular, seem to take more interest in managing the wait in positive ways than others. How does an organization decide how much time and effort to place into managing the initial wait for service?

8. Although some academic people make a life's work out of queuing theory, many readers enjoy reading about the "psychological" methods for managing the wait more than they do studying "theory." Which is more important to managing the guest experience in hospitality organizations: the hard numbers of queuing theory or the softer psychological approach?

9. You may have heard someone say, or may have said yourself, "Whichever line I am in, the others always move faster." Can this be true?


1. Find a situation in which a hospitality organization has found a way to control or shift guest demand. Why does the organization employ this strategy? How effective is the strategy? What incentives are offered to guests to encourage them to seek the hospitality service at one time rather than another? How profitable do you think the strategy might be?

2. Study the waiting-line situations (movies, athletic events, fast-food outlets, etc.) in which you find yourself over a period of time. Evaluate how well the lines are being managed. Which line-management strategies described in this chapter might have been used to improve these situations?
Case Studies

The Front Desk

Jane Gianini, manager at the Thusly Manor, an upscale inn and
golfing resort in the North Carolina mountains, was becoming
increasingly concerned about the situation at the front desk. On
several occasions during the past week, she walked by the desk and
saw a line of waiting guests. Several other times she walked by and
saw no guests at all.

The dramatic rise in personal income and tourism during the
1990s had caused a boom in number of guests wanting to combine a
stay in a fine hotel with some golfing on a beautiful hilly course.
But success also brought problems for Thusly Manor, how to handle
the increased numbers at the front desk among them. Gianini thought
she had controlled the situation by implementing a new staffing
procedure. If her calculations were correct, the new procedure
should have just about eliminated both the waiting lines and the
front-desk server down time. Nevertheless, she had seen guests
lined up several times, and idle desk agents quite frequently.

When she first analyzed the data, she computed simple averages.
To construct her present staffing schedule, she had found out how
many guests arrived during each eight-hour shift on average and had
divided that number by eight, to arrive at guest load per hour
during a shift. She then staffed the front desk accordingly. She
pulled the following data for the 8 A.M. to
4 P.M. shift from her files to check on whether she had analyzed
it correctly when she had set up her present system.

Type of Service and Percent of Service Time Used

                                   Average Service
Service Type                             Time        Percent

I. Check-in/checkout                 10 minutes        70%

II. Informational/misc. requests      5 minutes        30%

Frequency of Guest Arrivals at Front Desk

Average Time between Arrivals    Percent

 0 minutes                         30%
 5 minutes                         40%
10 minutes                         20%
20 minutes                         10%

1. What was wrong with Gianini's original analysis?

2. How should she have analyzed this problem?

Waiting for Gaudeaux

Grand Gaudeaux Cruise Lines specialized in taking passengers on
luxury cruises to the Gaudeaux island chain in the Caribbean.
Because of its financial success and good reputation in the
industry, Grand Gaudeaux had recently been able to expand its
passenger capacity by adding two brand-new, large ships to its
fleet. The guest-satisfaction measurement team was meeting this
morning with Steve Weitzman, CEO of Grand Gaudeaux, to discuss some
surprising low guest-satisfaction ratings received from passengers
on these two state-of-the-art ships. The company practice was to
mail departing guests a survey about a week after their cruise,
asking them a variety of questions. The recent data were troubling.
Grand Gaudeaux had hoped to delight its guests by providing these
new ships; instead, guests were reporting dissatisfaction.

The topic today was the dramatic downturn in the satisfaction
scores. Knowing that this meeting was coming up and realizing the
CEO's depth of concern, the measurement team had done some further
investigation into guest opinions through a variety of means. The
most interesting insight was gained from a series of focus groups
in which guests from the newer, larger ships had indicated their
frustration with the departure routine. It appeared that the larger
the ship, the more difficult it was to get everyone ashore after
the cruise ended. This long wait tended to give "cruisers" on the
two newest ships an unsatisfactory last experience with Grand
Gaudeaux Cruise Lines. Because of the "recency effect"--the
psychological theory that the most recent events are best
remembered and have greatest impact--the passenger problems in
departing the ship were overshadowing the many excellent aspects of
the cruise experience.

The team recognized some system solutions; for example, the port
facility could be retrofitted with larger capacity to accommodate
more departing passengers. Such a retrofit would involve
significant expenditures. But even if the budget were available to
make such improvements over the long run, the guest-satisfaction
measurement team realized the acute need to improve the management
of the passenger wait experience in the short run. The team knew of
Weitzman's personal pride in and high hopes for the new ships. They
knew he would want some answers as to what might be done to fix
this source of guest dissatisfaction.

If you were on the guest-satisfaction measurement team, what
steps would you recommend to Weitzman?

The Single-Channel, Single-Phase Case

The Chelten Hotel has a simple front desk with one service
station. Ben Blake, the front office manager, has been observing
the line at the front desk for several weeks. Not wanting guests to
wait in line too long, he wishes to calculate the average wait in
line for his guests over a one-hour period. He also wants to know
how much idle time his servers will have during that hour. If
front-desk agents have substantial idle time, Mr. Blake would like
for them to perform some routine tasks such as sort the mail and
enter charges to guest accounts.

Blake has compiled the following information for this one-hour
period. For this example, we ignore variability and use averages to
describe both arrival and service rates for the hotel guests:

The average time it takes to register a guest is four minutes;
the hotel can register about fifteen guests per hour. This is the
service rate, the units of server capacity per time period.

Ten guests are expected to arrive during the hour. This is the
arrival rate.

The formulas use the following symbols:

[lambda] = arrival rate per hour (10)

[mu] = service rate per hour (15)

(1). Average time a guest waits in line:

[W.sub.q] = [lambda] /[mu]([lambda] - [mu]) [W.sub.q] = 10 /
15(15 - 10) [W.sub.q] = .133 hours or 8 minutes

[W.sub.q] means waiting time in the queue before being served.
This calculation tells manager Blake that the average wait in the
line for a guest is eight minutes. If that wait time is
unacceptable to Blake, he may have to add another server.

2. Average time spent in system:

[T.sub.s] = 1 / [mu] - [lambda] [T.sub.s] = 1 / 15 - 10
[T.sub.s] = .2 hours or 12 minutes

This equation tells manager Blake that the average guest spends
twelve minutes in the system, including both waiting time and
service time.

3. Average number of guests in line:

[L.sub.q] = [[lambda].sup.2] / [mu]([mu] - [lambda]) [L.sub.q] =
[10.sup.2] / 15(15 - 10) [L.sub.q] = 1.33 guests

[L.sub.q] means the average length of the queue, in number of
guests. Knowing that only 1.33 guests are in line at any one time,
on average, reveals to Blake that the line's space requirements are

4. Percent of time the server is busy:

[rho] = [lambda] / [mu] = [rho] / 15 [rho] = 67%

The front-desk registration procedure has one or more guests in
it--either in line or being served--67 percent of the time, or
about forty minutes out of every hour.

5. Probability that there is no one in the system:

[[rho].sub.0] = 1 - ([lambda]/[mu]) [[rho].sub.0] = 1 - (10/15)
[[rho].sub.0] = 33%

This is obviously the inverse of the previous formula. If the
wait-plus-registration system has someone in it about forty minutes
out of each hour, it is empty for the other twenty minutes. Blake
can use this information to assign other tasks to idle servers. Now
that Blake has run his calculations, the registration agents can
probably look forward to an expanded job description.

Appendix: The Mathematics of Waiting Lines

The mathematics are quite simple for a single-channel, single-phase line. An understanding of a few calculations will reveal much about the dynamics of waiting lines.

In the following example, we will use a single-channel line for a hotel's front desk, with one server/agent at the desk. We will calculate the average amount of time that a guest stands in line and stands in the system (time in line plus time being served). In addition, we will determine the idle time of the front-desk staff. These figures would be useful to a hotel manager wishing to control the waiting time for guests and to reduce the idle time for service personnel. (4)

These calculations for a single-channel, single-phase line, to illustrate the underlying principles of waiting-line management, can be done by hand. However, more complicated line systems requiring more complex formulae should be (and can easily be) analyzed by computer. Standard spreadsheet products such as Lotus and Excel have the capacity to perform such waiting-line analysis.

Additional Readings

Davis, M. M., and T. E. Vollmann. 1990. A Framework for Relating Waiting Time and Customer Satisfaction in a Service Operation. Journal of Services Marketing 4(1):61-69.

Hui, Michael K., and David K. Tse. 1996. What to Tell Consumers in Waits of Different Lengths: An Integrative Model of Service Evaluation. Journal of Marketing 60(2):81-90.

Katz, Karen, Blaire M. Larson, and Richard Larson. 1991. Prescription for Waiting-in-Line Blues: Entertain, Enlighten, and Engage. Sloan Management Review 32(4):44-53.

Laval, Bruce. 1975. Optimization of Walt Disney World Monorail System Through Computer Simulation. Proceedings 8th Annual Simulation Symposium, Tampa, FL. March 12-14:1-10.

Maister, David. 1985. The Psychology of Waiting Lines, in John Czepiel, Michael R. Solomon, and Carol F. Suprenant, eds., The Service Encounter: Managing Employee/Customer Interaction in Service Businesses (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books), pp. 113-124.

Taylor, Shirley. 1995. The Effects of Filled Waiting Time and Service Provider Control over the Delay on Evaluations of Service. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 23(1):38-45.

Taylor, Shirley. 1994. Waiting for Service: The Relationship Between Delays and Evaluations of Service. Journal of Marketing 58(2):56-69.


(1.) Adapted from J. L. Heskett, W. E. Sasser, Jr., and C. W. L. Hart. 1990. Service Breakthroughs: Changing the Rules of the Game (New York: The Free Press), pp. 138-141.

(2.) Janine Young Sykes. 1999. Catalog Store to Close. Gainesville (Florida) Sun, February 17:9A.

(3.) Ibid.

(4.) Although the following assumptions underlie these formulas, it is not necessary to understand them to follow the discussion:

1. Queue discipline is first-in, first-out.

2. No balking or reneging. Customers must accept service when it is offered, and no one quits or leaves the line.

3. Arrivals are accurately represented by a Poisson statistical distribution.

4. Service times must follow a negative exponential Poisson distribution.

5. Arrivals are independent.

6. Arrival rate does not change over time.
Figure 11-2 Wheels Representing Time between Arrivals and Time
for Service at checkout.

Time between customer arrivals
(in minutes)

0 (15%)
1 (20%)
2 (25%)
3 (10%)
4 (10%)
5 (12%)
6 (8%)

Time for customer service
(in minutes)

1 (5%)
2 (15%)
3 (20%)
4 (25%)
5 (15%)
6 (10%)
7 (5%)
8 (5%)

Note: Table made from pie chart.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Delmar Learning
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Section 3 The Hospitality Service Systems
Publication:Managing the Guest Experience in Hospitality
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:Chapter 10 Delivering the service.
Next Article:Chapter 12 Fixing service problems.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters