Blocking Special Tables

Restaurant general managers are responsible for the delicate balancing act of not letting a table sit empty, but also not overbooking and running the kitchen ragged, leaving unhappy guests.

This project focuses on delivering a smarter and lower effort way for a restaurant to manage online reservations:

Restaurants need a better way to block tables from taking reservations at certain times of the night.

My role: Lead designer, and advisor to contract design team
Research (3 months)

What problems are restaurants trying to solve by blocking tables?

We visited 8 restaurants in Seattle to ask about planning for special days, reservations for large parties, and how they take reservations vs walk-ins.


1. Set diner expectations.

You don't expect a reservation to be at the bar, so set expecations when making an online reservation.

2. Prime time is most restrictive time of night.

Large parties at 7pm slow down the kitchen at the busiest time of night. Restaurants want to limit large parties during the prime.

3. Table types behave the same.

Bar seats turn over around the same time, and all aren't online for reservations just because they're bar seats.
Concept validation (2 months)

Does it make sense to group tables in the restaurant by type?

We showed concepts to 6 restaurants to test this concept.
V1 - label every table V2 - label table sections V3 - physical table objects

No unflattering names.

The "table by the bathroom" tag was not popular. Restaurants would never want customers to see that.

Do diners see this?

There was confusion about what tags diners would see when booking a reservation.
Feature release!

Feature launch that allows diners to book special table types for a reservation online.

Design iterations (3-4 months)

Setting peak/off peak times

Since restaurants have stricter reservation rules during the prime time of the shift, we explored how restaurants could set the prime time in their settings.
V1 V2

Field test revisions

Feedback from the field encouraged us to:
  • 01 removed the jargon of "time periods" or "sub shifts"
  • 02 made the less frequent action of choosing early/mid/late periods less prominent by putting it in a modal

Blocking reservations on tables

Once prime time periods are defined, the restaurant needs to be able to block certain groups of tables from taking online reservations.
V1 - natural language input V2 - hybrid natural language/check box input V3 - button input
The design evolved from a natural language input format to a simpler, more scanable tabular button format.

Ongoing work

Work continues on this project to address the challenges of large parties, outdoor seating, and a more abreviated view of shift settings.