Recent research findings reported in a September 2014 Harvard Business School Working Paper show the value of open kitchens in foodservice facilities and restaurants (Open kitchens are also referred to as exhibition or display kitchens).
The most surprising research finding was that customer satisfaction with the food increased 10% when the cooks could see the customers, but the customers couldn’t see the cooks. However, when the customers could see the cooks, but the cooks couldn’t see the customers, there was no increase compared to when neither could see each other. Most striking was that when customers and cooks could see one another, satisfaction went up 17% and service was 13% faster. Transparency between customers and providers improves service.
In another study led by Ryan W. Buell, one of the researchers, customers who preordered a sandwich and could watch it being made, such as at a Subway Sandwich shop, rated the service higher than customers who couldn’t see the sandwich being made, although the sandwiches were identical.
Buell, in a interview in Harvard Business Review, commented, “We’ve learned that seeing the customer can make employees feel more appreciated, more satisfied with their jobs, and more willing to exert effort. It’s important to note that it wasn’t just the perception of quality that improved—the food objectively got better. . . This work highlights the humanity of interactions, or service. There’s something refreshingly human about the idea that just seeing each other [in a work environment] can make us more appreciative and lead to objectively better outcomes.”
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t hide the kitchen, both from an overall employee and customer satisfaction standpoint, but also in terms of the speed of service and quality of the food.