Differences in culture between USA and The Netherlands: Restaurants

Bild11I am not sure if I have made an entry like this before. The trigger for this entry is this article which describes how a famous restaurant kept getting negative reviews and they really had no idea why. The decision was made to pull out some old footage of the surveillance system and have it compared with recent footage. The conclusion was that people were using their mobile devices more and that this would be a distraction for both the customers as well as the waiters and waitresses.

You didn’t discover this earlier??
One of the conclusions was that customers on average spend almost 2 hours in a restaurant were ten years back, the customer would wrap up in a little over an hour. The first thing that crossed my mind was: “How did you not discover this earlier?” One way to discover this, is the turnover. A less frequent table cycle (=new customers arriving at a table) definitely drops the income per evening; especially if customers take twice the time at their table! I am unable to grasp that restaurant owners do not notice this. If my income drops, I am determined to figure out why!

Now what?
I see a field of tension between customers allowing to use their cell phones, taking more time at a table restaurant and the damage it does to the table cycle. A restaurant owner does not want to disallow the usage of cell phones, either, scaring customers away; although… some Dutch restaurants have started some positive reinforcement to not use cell phones in their locations by using signs that say for example: “In this restaurant we speak to one another instead of through our phones”. That is getting attention and attracting a group of people.

How are things done in The Netherlands and how is this affecting Dutch restaurants?
In short: it is not affecting Dutch restaurants. The biggest different between Dutch restaurants (or actually citizens) and Americans is that Dutch people regard their restaurant visit as an evening out. They actually spend an entire evening at a restaurant table, even taking their time consuming their food. It actually is not about the food they consume; it is about the quality time (evening) spent together. After Dutch people are done with their food, they drink coffee and a few more drinks spending some chit/chat time at the table. A restaurant is lucky if their table cycle is 2, meaning that they get two sets of customers seated at one table on the same evening. This is one of the downsides why eating out in The Netherlands is so expensive. In Hoorn we have one restaurant, though that have two sessions. When making a reservation, they ask you whether you arrive at 6pm or at 8pm. We sometimes eat at this restaurant and really… after two hours we are actually done and are wanting to leave.

I find the two different restaurant concepts between the US and The Netherlands very interesting. Both sides have advantages and disadvantages. There is not one side that I like better, since I am accustomed to both sides and I adapt. What would you like better? Pay more and spend an entire evening out or spend less and leave within one or two hours? Could you see how it works for ‘the other side’?


  1. I generally am not interested in spending a long time in a restaurant; perhaps that was different when I was younger but now if I go out I usually am only interested in eating and getting out. The exception is when we have our winter holiday dinner for Ray’s law firm. We generally are there at least three hours.

    I really am not bothered if people are using their cell phones in restaurants; no doubt I’m used to it. Also, because I live in a rural area, this issue probably isn’t as much of an issue.

    • Thank you for your reply. The problem arises when YOU have to wait to get seated for dinner, while OTHERS are taking their time, because they mess with their cell phones. Wouldn’t that bother you, either? 😀

      On a different note: the Dutch people would never accept/agree to waiting for a table with a restaurant buzzer. The first time I ran into this thing, I was like: “What!!??” Would you ask for the waiting time? How long would you be willing to wait?

      • Sure, it would be very annoying although I have never seen that happen. It is probably more common in urban areas. Sometimes though it is not due to cell phones but people just not in a hurry to relinquish the table even though they are finished eating and have been finished for a while. Some people are just rude and inner-directed…you know the kind…the universe revolves around them…or so they think. 😉

        Waiting for a table is nothing new. I can remember waiting to be seated in a small restaurant in Pittsburgh…way back in the 70’s before cell phones. The place was just very popular and very crowded. There are times when if you really want to eat at a certain place and they are popular and don’t take reservations, you wait.

        The buzzers are actually a better way to let people know their table is ready. One of the restaurants we frequent (or did, we haven’t been eating out much anymore) would have someone walking through the crowds of people, shouting out the last name of the person over and over. It was kind of annoying. Now they’ve implemented the pager/buzzer system and it is not intrusive…someone repeatedly shouting to be heard above the crowd is intrusive. So, I think the buzzer system is a better bet.

        I have on occasion left the restaurant I just mentioned, without eating, because they were simply very crowded and I didn’t care to wait. No big deal, it just wasn’t in the cards for that day, lol. 😉

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