Behavioral Drivers of Routing Decisions: Evidence from Restaurant Table Assignment

41 Pages Posted: 2 May 2016 Last revised: 14 Oct 2019

See all articles by Tom Tan

Tom Tan

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Information Technology and Operations Management Department (ITOM)

Bradley R. Staats

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

Date Written: May 2, 2016

Abstract

Determining how best to route work is a key element of service system design. Not surprisingly then, many analytical models have identified various optimal routing algorithms for service operations management. However, in many settings, humans make routing decisions dynamically, either because algorithms don't exist, decision support tools have not been implemented, or existing rules are not enforced. Understanding how individuals make decisions creates the opportunity to identify both positive deviances, as well as suboptimal decision making that can be improved. Therefore, in this paper we first theoretically identify the factors that may impact decision making before empirically examining a large operational data set in a casual restaurant setting to research whether and how hosts deviate from their predefined round-robin rule to seat customers to servers. We find that hosts assign customers earlier than what the round-robin rule suggests to those servers who have low workload, high speed skills but low sales skills, and high familiarity with the hosts. In addition our models reveal that these seating heuristics are suboptimal in our setting and so we suggest an alternative seating heuristic to prioritize servers having high sales ability and estimate a potential sales lift between 2% and 3% through counterfactual analyses. Our research contributes both theoretically and practically as we use empirical methods to show not only how individuals make routing decisions, but also how these decisions can be improved.

Keywords: behavioral routing decisions, quality/speed trade-off, fairness, familiarity, workload, business analytics, restaurant operations, service operations, behavioral operations management

Suggested Citation

Tan, Tom and Staats, Bradley R., Behavioral Drivers of Routing Decisions: Evidence from Restaurant Table Assignment (May 2, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2773707 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2773707

Tom Tan

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - Information Technology and Operations Management Department (ITOM) ( email )

Dallas, TX 75275
United States

Bradley R. Staats (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School ( email )

McColl Building, CB#3490
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

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