Capacity Planning

Improve Parking lot layout for businesses

Improving Parking Lot Layouts For Businesses: Parking Your Way to Improved Customer Experience

When working with clients, our first glimpse of where customer service can be improved usually starts in the parking lot. Making it easy for customers to park, safely walk to the establishment, and ultimately find their car once they return, can make for a better overall experience. When it is time to repave or repaint your lot, consider improving your parking lot layout.

Here Are Six Considerations To Improve Your Parking Lot Layout:

1. Parking Lot Capacity

Does your lot barely hold the number of customers you have at any given time of day? Do you believe you may be losing customers on a regular basis due to lack of adequate parking, not just during a few peak days a year? If so, you may want to consider changing your lot layout to improve density. In most cases, a perpendicular (90° angle) spot is the most efficient. However, depending on your specific dimensions and restrictions, angled parking may be more efficient. It may even be worth considering one row of angled spots if you do not have space for an additional perpendicular spot row. These designs may  maximize the number of spots available, but  make it harder for customers to maneuver.

Top view of colorful car row on a parking lot, grey asphalt vehicle park with one last free spot left in diagonal angle slots, flat cartoon banner of city transport space - vector illustration

You should also consider how you balance customer experience with parking density. Creating an inviting, easy to maneuver lot creates a better first and last impression if you have the space to do so. In most cases, you can expect to need 310-330 square feet per parking spot including cross aisles and entrances.

2. Frequency of Arrivals and Departures

Are most of your customers parking for an extended period (a work location, a convention center, a school, etc.) or do customers come and go frequently (a grocery store, a convenience store, a shopping center, a restaurant, etc.). The more frequent the turnover, the more likely angled parking will work well. Drivers can enter and exit angled parking spots faster than perpendicular. They are also more likely to line up in the center on the first try, versus backing up and repositioning to avoid opening doors and hitting the car next to them.

3. Pedestrian Flow

Ideally, your parking lot will be laid out such that the aisles are perpendicular, not parallel to the main establishment. This allows customers to walk down the aisle in which they parked and usually cross over traffic once. If rows of parking are parallel to the building, customers are typically crossing multiple aisles, increasing their chance of encountering an oncoming car. If space is not a serious constraint, consider walking paths between aisles to remove customers from car lanes as much as possible.

4. Vehicle Flow

Parking aisles can be designed to handle one or two-way vehicular traffic. Moving all traffic in the same direction reduces the potential for vehicle accidents, requires less space per aisle, and allows pedestrians to focus on oncoming traffic from one direction. But it also requires drivers to thread up and down aisles in search of a space, if lots are often full. If 90% parking is in use, two-way traffic is a must given customers will be otherwise confused of which way to exit.

When designing the location of drive aisles, try to place them parallel to the longest edge of the lot. In other words, a rectangular lot that is wide east/west should have main drive aisles running east/west. In most cases, this will provide the most parking density. For larger parking lots, 30 spaces between cross aisles is a common standard.

A blue car is about to park in an empty parking space
5. Signage

A little signage goes a long way. Consider the following:

  • Designate accessible parking with standing signs, clearly visible from a distance. Drivers should not discover a spot is for accessible patrons from painted signs on the pavement, after they start to pull in. Likewise for spots designated for picking up an order.
3D disabled parking space with its signage on the ground and its information panel with the symbol of the wheelchair (cut out)
  • If customers are infrequent visitors and the lot is larger, all aisles should be labeled. This can be done with standing signage which also encourages customers to take a quick photo, or on the pavement. If on the pavement, it needs to be regularly painted.
  • Consider numerical or lettered systems versus colors or unique names. Is the Red aisle before or after the Yellow aisle? Is the Giraffe aisle before or after the Lion?
  • All standing signs should be tall enough to see over vehicles.
6. Overall Safety

When doing guest experience research, we see patrons express concerns of safety in the parking lot, which translates to a negative guest experience. Here are some considerations to improve safety:

  • Generous use of strong lighting will keep your customers safe and thieves at bay.
  • Minimizing the number of curbs and concrete barriers that are necessary will avoid pedestrian accidents. Even pedestrian walking aisles can be accomplished without erecting many barriers. Consider effective landscaping which is also more appealing.
  • Any potholes or broken pavement are accidents waiting to happen.

Never underestimate that making a good, first impression can pay dividends. For many businesses, that first impression is the parking lot!

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About Integrated Insight

Integrated Insight is an analytics consulting firm formed in 2009 by a team of past Walt Disney Parks & Resorts executives. With decades of experience at Disney in research, data analytics, pricing, revenue management, labor management and operational efficiency, Integrated Insight helps for-profit businesses and not-for-profit agencies reach their full potential. We marry our real-world experience with robust analysis of your business to find viable solutions to complex situations, and identify untapped opportunities for topline and bottom-line growth.

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Insightful Wayfinding Design with AI-Based Simulation Modeling

By Erin Clark, Vice President

Wayfinding is the process of using visual cues, landmarks, and other spatial information to help guests navigate a destination. Simulation technology provides a powerful tool for enhancing wayfinding and placemaking design, allowing designers to test how people will explore and navigate environments.

Agent-based modeling involves creating a virtual environment populated by individual agents (people) that interact with each other and their environment. Each agent is given a set of rules that govern its behavior, and by simulating the actions of all the agents over time, you can observe the emergent behavior of the system as a whole. Researchers and designers can use this technique to accurately simulate the flow of people.

Here Are Four Ways Simulation Technology Can Be Used to Enhance Wayfinding Design:

1. Provide Flexibility in Understanding People Flow

The first step in using simulation to address an opportunity with people flow is to gather information on the layout/measurements of the physical space, the number of customers expected on a designated day, their arrival curves, and any restrictions or limitations that may impact guest flow. Using this data, a simulation model can be built that accurately represents the physical space and the flow of customers through it. The simulation is then able to generate realistic scenarios based on different inputs, such as varying the number of individual agents or adjusting the placement of certain attractions.

Once the simulation is complete, users can analyze the results to gain insights into how people move through the environment. Researchers can also experiment with different scenarios, such as adding or removing obstacles or changing the behavior of agents, to see how this affects the flow of people.

2. Determine Customer Decision Points En Route to Their Destination

In a wayfinding simulation, individuals are represented as agents that move through a virtual environment and make decisions based on various factors such as visual cues, landmarks, signage, and their own personal preferences.

Simulations can be programmed with algorithms that mimic human behavior and decision-making processes, allowing industrial engineers to observe how people might navigate through an environment in different scenarios. By analyzing the simulation output, researchers can gain insights into the factors that influence wayfinding decisions, including when, where, and how people respond to different stimuli and environmental conditions.

For example, a simulation can be used to predict the decision points an airport passenger might encounter en route to their gate. By modeling human behavior, researchers can observe patterns and trends in decisions that individuals make and use this information to inform the design of the physical environment and signage.

The video below shows how Integrated Insight simulated guests’ decision-making for an immersive entertainment venue that was interested in better understanding its capacity. Uniquely tailored personas dictated how and where agents moved about within the venue.

3. Identify Bottlenecks and Congestion

Simulation can be a useful tool in alleviating congestion and bottlenecks because it allows designers to test and evaluate different strategies and interventions in a controlled and safe environment before implementing them in the real world.

For example, simulation can be used to create virtual models of crowded spaces, such as airports or train stations, and test different scenarios, such as changing the location of certain facilities, modifying the flow of foot traffic, or adjusting the timing of events. By doing so, planners can identify potential problems or bottlenecks in the system and develop effective solutions to alleviate congestion.

Simulation can also help identify potential safety hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of emergency response plans in crowded environments. By simulating emergency situations, planners can determine the best evacuation routes, assess the effectiveness of emergency communication systems, and identify areas that may require additional safety measures.

The agent-based simulation below modeled the rapid exit by venue guests to test the operation’s ability to handle emergencies. Based on guest service standards developed in conjunction with the client, Integrated Insight was able to simulate where bottlenecks would occur and when wait times would fail to meet those standards. You can see the agents interacting with each other and building congestion as they evacuate the theatre.

4. Visualize the Impact of Changes in Signage and Physical Layout

Simulation can be a powerful tool for improving wayfinding, especially in complex or unfamiliar environments. By creating a digital model of the environment, designers can simulate how people will move through it and identify potential issues with wayfinding, such as confusing signage or unclear paths. They can then make adjustments to the design to improve wayfinding before construction begins.

Once a physical environment has been built, simulation can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of different wayfinding strategies. By tracking the movements of people through the environment, designers can identify areas where people are getting lost, experiencing confusion, or becoming bottlenecked. They can then experiment with different signage, lighting, or other wayfinding cues to see which strategies are most effective.

Simulation is especially beneficial when theorizing how a small adjustment in signage, such as a change in color, size, or location, affects how an individual navigates through a venue. By simulating different conditions, changes in signage can be measured by the flow of the agents. Similarly, simulation can help designers visualize how a major layout reconfiguration affects how a group of people, or a full day of guests, reacts to the new environment. Visualizing such changes in a virtual world first can help businesses save time, aid in capacity planning, and reduce costly post-construction improvements.

Leverage Agent-Based Simulation in Your Next Design

Overall, simulation provides architects, designers, and key stakeholders with a powerful tool to test and refine wayfinding designs, which results in an improved user experience and optimized design.

For more information on simulation and how we partner with businesses across the globe to improve operational efficiency, please contact us at info@integratedinsight.com.

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Agent-Based Simulation in the Themed Entertainment Industry: Enhancing the Guest Experience with Predictive Analytics

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Agent-Based Simulation in the Themed Entertainment Industry: Enhancing the Guest Experience with Predictive Analytics

By Shelby Seifer, Analyst

Agent-based simulation modeling is a powerful tool for predicting and analyzing complex systems. In the themed entertainment industry, this technology allows designers and operators to simulate the behavior of guests and staff in real-world scenarios, allowing stakeholders to visualize how changes to an operation will impact the guest experience.

In an agent-based simulation for a themed entertainment venue, such as a theme park, museum, zoo, or resort, each agent (person) is built with artificial intelligence that mirrors how guests would make decisions in the real world. This includes decisions such as stopping to view an exhibit, moving past a line that is too long, needing to use the restroom, or eating at certain times of the day.

Agent-based simulation reveals how 'real-world' guests will interact with experiential designs and respond to changes in operational strategies, and can be applied in several scenarios, including:

  • Testing Experiential Designs
  • Improving Operational Efficiency
  • Testing Health and Safety Protocols
Testing Experiential Designs with Agent-Based Simulation

One of the most applicable uses of agent-based simulation for themed experiences is to test the schematic design and layout of a venue before ground is broken on the project and costs are incurred – a significant cost savings, as construction rework from design errors can increase total project costs by 5-20%1 .

project efficiency with simulation

By simulating how guests will interact with an experience in a virtual environment, designers can test the fluidity of the layout, identify potential bottlenecks or congestion points, and optimize the placement of attractions, shops, and amenities. All aspects of the design can be evaluated to ensure a seamless guest experience, and key questions can be answered, including:

  • Crowd Flow: How do crowds navigate through the design in peak periods? Where are the potential bottlenecks and areas of congestion? How do changes to the layout impact crowd dispersion?
  • Wayfinding: How do different signage systems, landmarks, or spatial configurations influence people's navigation behavior and decision-making?
  • Guest Entrance and Exit: How does our security, ticket scanning, and admissions process accommodate varying levels of demand? Are guests able to smoothly exit the venue during peak times, such as during closing?
  • Capacity Planning: How does our designed capacity accommodate peak demand periods? Where do congestion points occur that we can modify before it becomes a real-world issue?
  • Emergency Egress Planning: In a state of emergency, are guests able to quickly and efficiently exit?

These are just a few of the questions an agent-based simulation model can answer for designers. Our simulation projects are completed with an iterative process that allows stakeholders to ask questions and make adjustments as the design is being refined. For example, the simulation can test reconfiguring the layout or sequence of experiences, adding capacity to a specific experience, changing the expected dwell time for each activity, or adjusting the visitation levels to the venue.

Case Study - Capacity Planning for Zoo Attraction & Water Park

An attraction venue engaged Integrated Insight to assess how the addition of a water park to the existing attraction would affect capacity on the whole operation.  Since the capacity of this type of park is highly dependent on the weather, multiple scenarios had to be simulated:

  • A warm day where many guests would be in the water park
  • A cool day where very few guests would be in the water park, and
  • A normal day where there would be an even split of guests between the water park and the zoo.

Click to play video.

The simulation highlighted areas that might be constrained at different times of the year. From this, we were able to inform the client of pathways that needed to be widened due to their high levels of cross traffic, as well as recommend operational improvements for food and beverage, which may be capacity constrained during the lunch rush on cooler days.

Improving Operational Efficiency

Agent-based simulation can also be leveraged to improve operational efficiency of a themed entertainment venue by testing scenarios and operational strategies before implementing them, to ensure decisions help to reduce wait times, improve visitor flow, and enhance the overall visitor experience.

Operators can run tests to model process improvement scenarios with multiple demand levels and visualize the impact on the guest experience. For example, simulations can help test:

  • Staffing levels
  • Line management techniques
  • Wayfinding
  • Parking and transportation
  • F&B mobile ordering
  • Retail self-checkout

The implications are expansive, and the benefits are considerable, as repeat visitation from satisfied guests and reduced costs from inefficient operations can significantly improve profitability.

Case Study - Modeling Queue Optimization Techniques with Agent-Based Simulation

One major example of simulation’s capabilities includes modeling egress and ingress efficiency. This could include a rush of guests entering a theme park as soon as they open, or sports fans exiting a stadium after a game. Simulations are also ideal for gaining helpful statistics - such as how long it takes a guest to exit the building or the average time someone spends in a line.

For example, Integrated Insight worked with accesso to test the impact of ticketing solutions on queue times for a ski resort. The operation was tested under two scenarios: free guest queueing and virtual queueing. In the video, you can see how simulation modeling was used to clearly highlight the major differences between the two scenarios.

Testing Health and Safety Protocols

Another great use of agent-based simulation is to ensure the safety of guests. For example, during COVID-19 we used agent-based simulation to help theme parks, attractions, and venues successfully navigate the new world with social distancing guidelines and reduced capacity.

These simulations helped shed insight on changes in demand, new pinch points, and areas to potentially open up to keep guests safe. Even outside of a pandemic, changing regulations, safety protocols, and guest behavior can affect the capacity of a space. To keep up with these changes, we work with our clients to determine how incorporating health precautions and emergency protocols might impact their operation.

Case Study - Optimizing Space Utilization with Safety Protocols

A client approached Integrated Insight seeking operational advice on how to re-open a long running walk-through attraction in a COVID-19 world. The initial scope of the project was to model the attraction as previously designed and then simulate the impact of changes to determine a layout that followed social distancing guidelines, while also optimizing attendance and revenue.

Click to play video.

By leveraging agent-based simulation, we identified a 14% increase in capacity for our client while still maintaining social distancing simply by redesigning the space of the event. These learnings applied beyond the extent of the pandemic and have improved the operation in the long run.

Leverage Agent-Based Simulation in Your Next Project

Whether designing a new state-of-the-art immersive experience or conducting operations assessment on your current venue, agent-based simulation gives you the opportunity to get it right the first time and create a great guest experience.

Want to learn more about agent-based simulation?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your business needs.

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Sources
1. Factors Affecting Rework Costs in Construction, Source

Identifying Safe Reopening Strategies for Ski Resorts Using Agent-Based Simulation

We are liv­ing in unprece­dent­ed times. More like­ly than not, your busi­ness has been impact­ed by the unique events of the world­wide COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. How­ev­er, even in the most challenging of times, con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion remains crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant. In an effort to con­tin­ue sup­port­ing our client part­ners dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time, we will con­tin­ue shar­ing insights and guid­ance to help you strength­en your busi­ness and serve your val­ued cus­tomers when the time comes to wel­come them back to your venue. Learn more about our COVID solu­tions here.

As ski season quickly approaches, figuring out how to safely welcome your skiers back in the COVID era can be a daunting task. At acces­so, we’ve been work­ing tirelessly to help our ski clients plan for a safe and successful reopening. We recently partnered with Integrated Insight, an analytics consulting firm, to analyze how virtual queues, timed ticketing and social distancing will affect your guests and ski area. Watch as acces­so Solutions Architect Kevin Brice and Integrated Insight VP of Industrial Engineering Ben Dubiel take us through their 3 simulations for COVID crowd management for your ski resort and read on for your guide to avoiding an unexpected avalanche of traffic on open­ing day!

Tools for Reopening Safely

-Timed Ticketing & Reservations: As COVID-19 con­tin­ues, many ski area oper­a­tors are focus­ing on a reopen­ing plan that limits the num­ber of guests vis­it­ing each day. Your tick­et­ing sys­tem can help you achieve this in sev­er­al ways. Offer­ing guests timed tickets on your eCom­merce tick­et­ing site is essen­tial. Timed ticketing can great­ly help your oper­a­tions team pre­pare for and safe­ly accom­mo­date guests. This allows your resort to safely spread out skiers throughout the day on the mountain. Guests can make their reser­va­tion to ski any­where, on any device—even when they are on the gondola! Oper­a­tors can eas­i­ly enforce capac­i­ty based on local restric­tions or oper­a­tional needs.

- Virtual Queuing: Vir­tu­al queu­ing is a great way to keep skiers safe while allow­ing them to ful­ly enjoy your resort. Long lines are almost as much of a staple for ski areas as fresh powder. During COVID-19, enforcing social distancing with long lines would mean your resort would need miles of line area. Empowering your guests to join virtual queues can eliminate these lengthy physical lines in a way that promotes social distancing. Plus, when guests no longer have to spend a significant amount of their day standing in a line, they can have more time to enjoy your ski resort, making long-lasting memories that help boost guest loyalty. Not only can virtual queues be helpful for your lifts or gondolas, but also, they can be a big help for rental shops and other high traffic areas around your resort.

 

Agent-Based Simulation Scenarios for Ski Operations

In order to show how operations perform under different scenarios, the Integrated Insight team built a sample ski resort. Using agent-based simulation, they modeled the effect of different operational scenarios on guest traffic flow to identify potential friction points, crowding and/or excess queue times. Agent-based simulation uses Artificially Intelligent agents to create models of guest behaviors and navigational flows. The team created three scenarios to understand the impact that different operational methods have on system performance.

 

Free-For-All (Baseline)

This is the baseline model to show how guests would have arrived prior to COVID-19. It is important to see what would happen if no adjustments to the arrival experience are made. Data shows that the majority of guests show up between 8:15-9:15 am, but afterwards, the number of skiers arriving drops significantly. The Free-For-All scenario fills the gondola queue fastest, creating a longer wait quickly. At peak operation in this scenario, the posted wait time for guests is 140 minutes, and your resort would need over a half-mile of line space just for the gondola queue. As we can see here, a scenario that involves your ski area following through with “business as usual,” for the most part, is not conducive to a safe or efficient reopening for your resort.

 

Timed Ticketing Only

The next scenario is Timed Ticketing. This shows the result if guests are assigned an arrival time and cannot access the gondola until their assigned time. The arrivals prior to and during opening are significantly lower, but pick up once Timed Ticket and Reservation slots are active. In the simulation, we’ve also included guests arriving before and after their times to model guests needing to wait to access the gondola. The Timed Ticketing scenario only delays the concerns from the Free-For-All. Guests experience the queue filling and congestion at 11:15 am instead of first thing in the morning. Posted wait times are still at 125+ minutes and the resort still need half a mile of socially distanced queue to accommodate the guests waiting for their turn on the mountain.

 

Virtual Queue & Timed Ticketing

The final scenario shows Timed Ticketing with a virtual queue that only allows guests to enter a physical buffer queue once their assigned time is reached. In this case, the guests show up later as there is no incentive to access the queue early. This gives them time to spend at your F&B locations, rental shops or other places at the resort where they can practice safe social distancing while still enjoying their experience. At peak operations, the posted wait time is 136 minutes, but in this simulation, your guests only wait an average of 13 minutes in a physical line once their wait is over in the virtual queue. The socially distanced buffer queue or physical line only needs to be about 370 feet (.07 miles), and guests are spread out across your resort instead of crowding at the gondola line. This option not only is the safest for your guests and staff, but it also allows your resort to limit guest capacity while still driving revenue through F&B and other shops.

How Can We Help?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your business needs.

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Improve Parking lot layout for businesses

Improving Parking Lot Layouts For Businesses: Parking Your Way to Improved Customer Experience

Improving parking lot layout for businesses can enhance customer experience. Learn about effective layouts, signage, and safety tips.

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Insightful Wayfinding Design with AI-Based Simulation Modeling

Simulation technology is a powerful tool for enhancing wayfinding, allowing designers to test how people will explore and navigate through environments.

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Optimizing Restaurant Space To Increase Sales Post-COVID-19

Optimizing Restaurant Space To Increase Sales During COVID-19

by Susan Dekker, Director, Integrated Insight

Space management strategies inside restaurants look very different in a post-Covid-19 world. Regulations for social distancing have put restraints on restaurants that have limited party sizes, total dining capacity, and number of guests allowed per square foot. Additional space is needed to increase distance between dining tables, employees in the kitchen, FOH check-in, and waiting areas.

With capacity constraints and space limitations, restaurants need to optimize the utilization of space available to increase daily sales.

Maximize Existing Space
In order to increase space utilization, restaurant operators need to evaluate existing space. A few options to explore include:

- POS Stations: Guest expectations for safety are morphing, and many guests will expect contactless payment options. Consider switching to mobile tablets for both point of ordering and sales. There are plenty of off-the-shelf solutions available. This may reduce the need for the POS nooks currently dispersed throughout many restaurants in the front-of-house space.

- Storage Areas: Evaluate order quantities to reduce the area taken up for storage. The “Pre-Covid” order quantities and frequencies are no longer applicable in today’s operation. Consider ordering lower supply amounts on a more frequent basis to keep only the needed stock on hand. Restaurant operators can convert previously used storage space into guest-facing areas or increase square footage available for social distancing in the kitchen.

- Take Advantage of Available Outdoor Space: Many consumers will feel more comfortable eating outdoors because of the open space. Restaurants can get creative with utilizing outdoor space by converting parking and landscaping space into dining areas to maximize the available outdoor seating. As the weather gets colder, consider adding guest comfort measures such as tents and heaters.

 

Designate Space According to Guest Groups
Guest expectations and desires for the dining experience have changed drastically since the coronavirus outbreak. In order to optimize fulfillment space, restaurants need to identify the volume of dine-in versus carry-out orders. There are likely many more “dine-out” guests that prefer the drive-through, curbside pick-up, delivery fulfilled in-house, or delivery through third party apps.

Each one of these guest types interacts with the restaurant slightly differently upon arrival. Thus, be sure to consider each guest group and account for shifting guest behaviors when re-designing restaurant space.

Dine-In vs. Carry-Out
Restaurants should physically separate dine-in and carry-out guests since they require very different means of fulfillment. If possible, designate an entrance for dine-in and an entrance for dine-out guests. Consider retrofitting an area near an existing door to act as a dine-out counter. Conduct take-out as an independent operation from dine-in.

As an alternative, especially if separate entrances aren’t possible, consider implementing curbside pick-up for carry-out orders. Guests do not have to enter the restaurant which can free up space for a waiting area. Identify a few parking spots as “curbside pick-up.” A sign should clearly state directions and include key information like a phone number and parking spot number so the guest knows what to do upon arrival.

Reservation vs. Walk-Ups
For guests that are dining inside the restaurant, consider how to handle guests with reservations versus walk-ups. Operating by reservation-only gives restaurants the greatest ability to manage guest arrivals. However, be sure to understand the no-show rate, since you can’t fill in no-shows with walk-ins in a reservation-only operation.

If you do accept walk-in guests, look into off-the-shelf apps to utilize a mobile queue where you can text a guest when their table is ready. This allows the guest to wait in their car or other off-site location. You can also utilize apps like Yelp’s waitlist to allow guests to get in line prior to arrival.

Plan for Excess Demand
As more consumers begin to feel comfortable venturing out, demand could begin to outpace capacity and space limitations.  If venues fail to plan for this scenario, it could lead to crowds of people waiting to enter without a way to properly distance themselves.  The two most effective ways to prepare for this demand is to design a socially distanced queue or to utilize a virtual queuing system so guests can wait in their cars.

The video below shows the benefit of providing enough space to allow guests to properly distance themselves while remaining in order of arrival to promote fairness.  Many venues are attempting to do this but provide too few queuing locations and the structure breaks down with excess demand.  Providing ample queuing locations (even with masking tape!) will provide structure for the guests and prevent a dangerous situation from developing.

Virtual queuing is another great option for venues with ample parking.  Many products exist to provide automatic text messaging to guests to inform them when their tables are ready.  This allows guests to wait in their cars out of the elements and eliminates potential crowds.  Some locations are avoiding the software costs by approximating a virtual queue using a host to text guests manually when their table becomes available.

Other Considerations

Inside the restaurant, seating rearrangements will be mostly dictated by regulations, but be sure to understand both employee and customer usage. Does the route to the bathroom require guests to get uncomfortably close to an occupied table? Are there any pinch points where a server must squeeze by a table? Modify seating layouts as needed.

The back-of-house space may need to change. If delivery or take-out continue to be a large portion of sales, you may need to dedicate kitchen space to this operation. Also consider designating space to distribute dine-out orders, which can help reduce errors. Dedicate a leader with responsibility purely for delivery and take-out guests.

Always Provide Excellent Customer Services
Regardless of what changes you make to your restaurant’s physical space, guests should always receive  excellent service. Guests waiting to pick up food still deserve the level of customer experience that dine-in guests experience. Even though they may not be sitting at a table, they are still forming an impression of your business.

A great way to elevate the customer experience is to provide coverings, fans, heaters, or water to outside queues based on the conditions. Adding an entertainment factor to queues and waiting areas can also elevate the experience.

Ultimately, be sure that the operational process is clear to the guest. Customers are likely already stressed given the current outside conditions, and clearly communicating the process can relieve anxiety. Continually update all guest communication channels with the latest policies and procedures. This includes social media, website, physical signs at restaurants, and instructions on Google business listings and third-party apps.

How Can We Help?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your business needs.

solving elevator high rise transportation with social distancing

Solving Elevator Transportation During COVID-19 With Simulation Modeling

by Ben Dubiel, VP,  Integrated Insight

Elevators are part of many people’s daily lives – apartments where we live, offices where we work, and hotels where we travel. However, CDC guidelines for elevator operation during and after the pandemic are causing new concern among landlords on what elevator capacity might look like with social distancing.

Social distancing has turned the service world upside down as the industry went from maximizing the number of guests within a space to needing to maximize space between guests. As mentioned in Marketplace, some building operators are putting in social distancing measures, but how many know the implications downstream? In locations that depend on elevators for vertical transportation, decreased elevator capacity will quickly become a bottleneck that could cause dangerous crowding if not accounted for. In our experience, we’ve found that agent-based simulation is the best option for understanding and mitigating elevator operation with social distancing.

Risks Involved in Reopening a High-Rise

As with all situations that involve potential crowds, there are added risks with reopening during and after the pandemic.  Not addressing these risks could lead to tenant dissatisfaction and a potential spike in vacancies as companies begin to adopt a work-from-home culture or residents flee from high-rise housing.

The most common risk we’ve observed is tenants congregating in lobbies due to reduced elevator capacity. Individuals will usually adhere to social distancing guidelines if they are given markers on where to stand.  If these markers are not provided, the group will begin to crowd around the door to ensure they make it into the establishment as soon as possible.

Assuming an intuitive, clearly marked queue is planned, this can then lead to a secondary risk: limited space within lobbies.  We’ve found that socially distancing a queue can require three to six times more space and landlords will find the limited space they have disappears quick during periods of high demand.

The final risks are a product of the long waits that could develop if demand is not properly planned for: lower productivity and frustration.  Waiting 5-20 minutes each time a tenant calls an elevator will add up quickly. The resulting dissatisfaction will result in higher vacancies as people are forced to make a change.

Capacity Depends on Many Compounding Variables

Elevator throughput is a complex equation that depends on many variables within the infrastructure and operation.  Only some of these variables are controllable by the building operator.

- Elevator operating methods (e.g. door close delay and operational methodology) are usually variable and can be controlled systematically. Understanding the proper settings in your environment can be difficult if the rest of the equation is unknown.

- The building and lobby layout are typically limited by the physical infrastructure and need to be worked around to determine the most efficient operation.

- Volume of demand will depend on the size and operation of the building. This can be controlled by working with tenants to reduce access to the building to only necessary activity.

- Arrival rate varies widely by the operation of each tenant in the building. Each operation or tenant will have a unique arrival rate. Combining all arrival rates along with the associated volume of demand will add up to a larger arrival curve that will ultimately determine the periods of peak demand.

- The destination of tenants complicates the equation immensely. If tenants arriving at similar times have significant variations in destination floor, the elevator travel time will grow and thus the resulting elevator capacity will shrink.

Using Simulation to Model Operation Scenarios
Because each operation is unique and the solution can be difficult to determine, we recommend agent-based simulation to find the optimal solution through experimentation.  Using simulation, we can model the base scenario to determine the extent of the concern given the expected demand upon reopening.  In the movie below, an example of a base scenario for a nine-story office building is shown:

After the base analysis is complete, the model can then be modified with the help of building operators to evaluate different mitigation techniques and remove the uncertainty from the reopening plan.

A few mitigation techniques that are being used in the industry include:

- Technology: Elevator timing and logic can be adjusted to operate more effectively with smaller groups riding.

- Manual demand management: Hosts can be used to manually sort riders to make the trips as efficient as possible resulting in increased elevator throughput.

- Demand mitigation: Solutions like dedicated floor service, assigning days and times for elevator use, and incentivizing stair use can increase capacity in certain scenarios.

These scenarios can be modeled before reopening to evaluate their effectiveness safely in a risk-free environment.

Results Provide Details on the Safest Operational Plan
Metrics are used to evaluate each scenario during modeling and experimentation.  Elevator capacity, queue size, wait times, and required operators are a few of the metrics we use to ensure we identify the optimal scenario. The final step in the process would be to justify any recommended changes, infrastructure or otherwise, with the potential avoidance of revenue loss that would come from a decrease in move-outs or safety hazards.

The movie below shows an analysis of a museum operation that depends on elevators for vertical transportation. This analysis helped the operators understand the resulting elevator capacity, which was reduced significantly (up to 70%). This information provided the needed insight for the number of tickets they could sell for a specific time period to provide a safe and fun environment for their guests.

Museum Elevator Simulation Model

Mote Marine Event Space

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how companies can understand capacity with social distancing guidelines

How to Determine Operational Capacity in a Covid-19 World

by Ben Dubiel, VP,  Integrated Insight

Published June 4, 2020

Now that businesses are re-opening, owners and operators are asking, “Now what?” The safety of patrons and employees is paramount. But mandates to open at 25% to 50% of capacity without specific operational guidelines are perplexing.

Determining the right capacity for your establishment will require attention to four key components:

  1. Physical space: The amount of space you have at your disposal.
  2. Customer density: How close to each other are customers willing to be.
  3. Operational flow: How customers and employees flow through the operation.
  4. Process time: How long it takes to service a customer and how variable it is.

Determining operational capacity can be difficult as it is necessary to understand how all of the disparate parts of the operation interact together. It can also be an iterative process when done in real time. Alternatively, agent-based simulation modeling can help operators view the overall process to determine bottlenecks before a negative impact on guest safety or experience occurs.

Let's look at a case study of a museum to identify opportunities for each key component when determining capacity.

1. Physical space: Beware of changing constraints.

The first instinct when thinking about reduced capacity for a museum is to consider how many guests can be allowed to view exhibits at one time. However, you can see in the  simulation video below that the vertical transport to move from floor to floor is the more limiting factor. The operator is required to reserve one elevator for guests with mobility issues. The remaining elevators can only allow one group per trip to maintain social distancing. These constraints reduce the throughput by almost 70%, restricting capacity to the point that the space available in the attraction is not an issue.

Elevator Queue Line Before and After Social Distancing

Elevators will be one of the most difficult processes to manage as social distancing of six feet inside is almost impossible. However, there is a big difference between an office building, where most arrivals are parties of one, versus an attraction, where people visit in a cohesive group.

Another constraint is the space required for the elevator queue. Most elevator lobbies have limited space. Queue lines will need to be laid out to indicate specifically where to stand and could require 3 to 4 times more space than before. It is possible the queue may extend outdoors and reservations only (no walk-ups) could be the future.

2. Customer density: Everyone has to be somewhere.

Understanding individual components of an experience is a good place to start. But eventually, it all has to work together. Everyone has to be somewhere at any given point in time. Alleviating a crowd in one place may create one in another.

For the museum, elevator queueing space will need to be extended to accompany any excess demand, since this is the bottleneck in the operation. As a perspective, view this articulated density chart that explains the level of comfort people will have in crowded situations.

In the Covid-19 world, customers may want to avoid anything in red.  The clip of the simulation below shows a heat map that measures the average density of guests over time.  The new operation and the limited elevator throughput creates a safe environment in the venue by providing at least 10 square feet per guest around exhibits.

Museum Exhibit Heat Map

3. Operational flow: Some restrictions may apply.

In our example, guests used to be able to flow freely throughout the museum, bouncing from one exhibit to another. However, this flow created cross-traffic where guests were in close contact. In today's operations, this needs to be fixed in order to maintain social distancing guidelines.

Many grocery stores implemented one-way aisles specifically for this reason. It eliminated shoppers facing one another in a confined space. Otherwise, carts make for a good six foot distance barrier when lined up one behind another.

In order to maintain social distancing, the museum needs to transition to one-way traffic. By erecting a barrier that starts at the elevators and continues across the floor, all guests enter one way and experience the museum in a linear direction. The result is a safer experience, but at reduced capacity. As one guest slows down, so do the parties behind them. Passing lanes could be implemented to help guests flow through at their own pace. Interestingly, in the case of the museum, even though capacity on the upper exhibit floors is reduced, the bottleneck that occurs at the elevators actually helps manage exhibit space.

Museum Exhibit Simulation Model

4. Process time: Look for opportunities to offset longer waits.

With social distancing guidelines in place, experiences are going to take longer. The number of people that can fit in an elevator at one time will create longer waits. The number of guests that can use a vehicle in an amusement park may make the queue (real or virtual) longer. The number of visitors that can view an art exhibit at the same time while maintaining safe space will increase the time it takes to see it all. Understanding how long it takes to process one patron, and the variability in that timing, will help determine the capacity limits for each attraction.

Additionally, operators need to look at ways to speed up processes in the system. For example, if food and beverage locations are a potential bottleneck, a "grab and go" system may help alleviate some of the pain.

Here are some ideas to think about: Will adding another show time help spread demand and lower the process time for any one performance? Can extended operating hours better manage overall demand, while being profitable for the business?

Regardless of the business, an operation needs to be viewed holistically. Continuously monitoring the system will ensure that new processes don't revert back to old ones. This amount of focus and attention to detail will serve businesses well as safety is the top concern for today's consumers.

For more information on agent-based simulation and how we partner with brands across the globe, please contact us at info@integratedinsight.com

retail queue optimization

How Agent-Based Simulation Can Optimize Queue Management

by Joni Newkirk, CEO, Integrated Insight

Summertime is often synonymous with long lines as Americans begin to travel. Long wait times increase at the airport, amusement parks, and even entrances to beaches and state and national parks. And when summer turns to Fall and Winter, add retail checkout lanes to the mix of queues that need to be optimized.

Psychology dictates how consumers perceive waiting time in lines. As Lavi Industries points out in “The Art and Science of Queuing,” consumers want to feel as though they are in control. They want to start right away, or at least be immediately acknowledged. They need to know how long they will be waiting before deciding to get in line. Sensitivity increases if they feel someone else is cutting in front of them. And consumers will need distractions to make the actual wait time feel like less of a burden.

Setting psychology aside, effectively managing queue lines is the most definitive step you can take to enhance the customer experience. However, it’s not always intuitive – and certainly isn’t easy to optimize just by sight.

Cutting wait times significantly is possible with the right process. At a minimum, a queuing process revolves around two forces:

  1. The arrival rate of patrons.
  2. The amount of time it takes to serve one customer.

Both of these factors can vary. The added complication is how the service is delivered; primarily, how the servers are arranged and how guests in the waiting lines approach the servers. Through agent-based simulation, it is easier to both see and record the impact of different queue processes.

Case Study – Using Agent-Based Simulation to Optimize Queue Lines of a School Lunch Pickup

In 2020, a free lunch pickup program was initiated at Florida schools. This required schools to quickly determine a distribution plan.

We looked at the distribution process for a local Orlando high school and used agent-based modeling to identify bottlenecks. Initially, the high school used a single line for lunch pickup. At the first stop, guests provided their names and the number of meals being picked up. Next, a monitor directed the driver to one of two stations further down the lane for pickup. These two stations distributed the same meal.

In this queue line, valuable time was lost if the pickup occurring in the second station is slower than the first station, as the next car to pick up is blocked by the car ahead. Under this scenario, the full distribution process can take hours to complete, and parents are consuming time sitting in their cars.

We built the distribution environment in agent-based simulation software to see the impacts that single-lane queuing had on the time parents had to wait in their cars. In the video below, you can see wait times reach higher than 30 minutes as the cars stack up.

Using agent-based simulation, we created a model with parallel fulfillment (using two lanes), to see if lunches could be distributed more efficiently.


The alternative process, two distinct lines, cuts distribution time significantly. Rather than cars waiting behind one another, the approaching line splits into two. Each driver is free to leave once done. This process still uses just four staff members given there isn’t a need for a monitor to direct traffic. In total, the average wait time is reduced by 24 minutes, and over 100 more cars are serviced in a single hour.

Before: Single Lane Fulfillment

  • 35-minute wait by noon
  • 283 cars served

Recommended: Parallel Lane Fulfillment

  • 11-minute wait by noon
  • 496 cars served

Queue management has a significant impact on the bottom line. Efficient queues increase throughput, brand loyalty, and customer satisfaction.

This is one small example of how simulation can bring to light what customers experience and help justify process changes. Relatively minor fixes can give minutes or hours back to time-starved, task-loaded consumers. For more complex processes, the intrinsic value is even greater. And with social distancing, being able to iterate potential solutions is made far easier with agent-based simulation.

For more information on agent-based simulation and how we partner with brands across the globe, please contact us at info@integratedinsight.com.

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The impetus was a letter that landed on Joni Newkirk’s desk, then SVP of Business Insight and Improvement for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Sent down the chain from our Chairman’s office, the letter writer was complaining about wait time, but not in the traditional sense. The guest was frustrated that posted wait times were inconsistent. In some cases, the posted wait time was much shorter than the actual wait and the guest and their party grew impatient as would be expected. In other instances, the posted wait time was much longer than the actual wait causing some of their party to forgo the ride, only to discover later that the wait wasn’t bad at all. Over the course of the day, the guest would be bewildered regarding what to expect and posted waits inconsistent with actual waits were a dis-satisfier.

To address inconsistencies and also better leverage resources, the Disney Operations Command Center was formed, led by the Industrial Engineering team within the Business Insight and Improvement division. The theory was that Improving the guest experience by tightening up operations and better managing guest flow would be a win win for both guests and Disney . This effort was a prelude to much of the information now collected through Magic Bands, but prior to the property-wide installation of RFID to enable such an effort.

What started as a manual effort quickly became a technology enabled command center, manned to lend another set of eyes and ears to the front line operations team. Through various technology solutions, the command center could spot potential issues before gridlock occurred. Ongoing monitoring and implementation of countermeasures enabled the Industrial Engineering team to identify enough throughput efficiency to improve average rides per visitor, and save from having to immediately invest in another multi-million dollar ride to increase capacity. The effort was so successful that it caught the attention of a NY Times reporter with an article published in December, 2010.

Read more here.

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