Posted by Selma Bjorklund

A tale of bagels, frustration, and space optimisation

I’m a bagel enthusiast. Perhaps not to the point where I make my own bagels (I tried it once, it was very time consuming for a beginner like me), but to the extent that, just as with burritos, I’ll always say yes to a kind offer.

In Bath, where I live, I have a favourite cosy bagel shop. Cosy, that is, if you sit in and order your bagel to your table. The restaurant also offers a take-away service, and every time we’re getting a bagel to take along we joke that they would need a Smart Space consultant to help them with the busy people flow. The take-away area is always crowded (they do, after all, make great bagels), and there is no apparent structure regarding when to order, pay, and where to queue. The result is a small space filled with confused customers longing for a carb-filled snack.

There are many factors contributing to this, but some of the most prominent are space utilisation and signage, process time, and customer expectations.

We’ll kick off with the obvious: if it’s not clear how the space is meant to be used, few people will use it in the intended way. There may be an intelligent and well-planned way of ordering, paying and waiting, but as there is no signage or indication of how it all should be done, anarchy rules. A space should be intuitive, and if it isn’t, it needs to communicate anything that is unclear through signage.

Second are the process times and how you organise a series of different processes in the most efficient way. In this particular example, order and payment is completed first, and then you wait as your bagel is being made. As ordering and paying happens much faster than the actual making of the bagel, whoever works at the cash register has to help customers in groups, to then go and help whoever is making bagels to make sure they catch up. This creates an uneven flow and as a customer, you feel like you spend too long waiting.

This brings us to our third factor: user expectations.

Why is it that when I order from a table upstairs, my bagel seems to come to me in no time at all? When I’ve taken my coat off and made myself comfortable in a chair, I’m no longer expecting everything to happen that fast. A short wait is fine. I’m having a good time. When grabbing food on the go, I expect it to be fast. Maybe I’m in a hurry to get somewhere? The minutes between ordering and receiving my food seem endless. Still, these two situations most likely take approximately the same time.

Since I apparently think this ordering and waiting experience is such a hassle, why do I still use this shop? There simply are no other bagel places in Bath. Instead of writing “I never went there again” I now get to write “I spend every moment before a bagel in frustration”. Oh well. At least I get to eat bagels.

Have you had a similar experience? How could it have been made better? Join the conversation in the comments below and read all about Smart Retail


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