Cornell offers free spreadsheet to generate optimum restaurant seating

Table reservedA new tool from the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) allows restaurateurs to optimize their reservations and seating using Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet. The tool and description, “Instructions for the Restaurant Reservations Optimization Tool,” by Gary Thompson, are available from CHR at no charge. Thompson is a professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. 

“The tool uses the Solver add-in for Excel, which allows restaurant operators to determine their best mix of tables and also decide which reservations they should accept based on their demand forecast,” Thompson explained. “As part of this calculation, the operator does have to make an estimate of how much to inflate the amount of time guests will be seated at the table, since dining duration is an important aspect of when tables will become available and when reservations can be accepted.”

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Thompson added that the “inflation factor” for dining time influences revenue and service levels, since a lower inflation factor would result in more revenue, but also risks lower service levels since it could leave customers waiting for a table.

The instruction document depicts the components of the tool and explains how to use the tool by presenting a practical example of table mix optimization for two nights. Thompson also shows the optimization model behind the tool.

“In my explanation and examples, I have set up the tool for four table sizes and eight reservation time slots, because of limitations in the basic Solver add-in,” Thompson said. “But this can easily be expanded by upgrading Solver’s capabilities, as I explain in the tool instructions.”

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