Simulation Modeling

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

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

Simulation and AI technology enable designers to test experiential designs, improve operational efficiency, and ensure health and safety protocols.

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

Agent-based simulation can model operational scenarios to aid in decision making, including line management techniques.

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Optimizing Restaurant Space To Increase Sales Post-COVID-19

Optimizing Restaurant Space To Increase Sales During COVID-19

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

Read More

How Can We Help?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your business needs.

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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Foundational Approaches to Achieve Operational Efficiency

Focus on foundational approaches to operational efficiency to avoid excess costs, unnecessary frustration for both customers and employees, and lower quality products or services. Often companies focus on “big picture” initiatives, resulting in company-wide standardization or major organizational changes. But there is always opportunity to make incremental progress by optimizing lower-level processes as well.

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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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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.

Read More

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

Simulation and AI technology enable designers to test experiential designs, improve operational efficiency, and ensure health and safety protocols.

Read More

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

Agent-based simulation can model operational scenarios to aid in decision making, including line management techniques.

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Finding Operational Efficiency in a COVID-19 World and Beyond

Many businesses planning reopening strategies have approached our team at Integrated Insight for help understanding how they can reopen safely while remaining profitable. In most cases, we find operational and design efficiencies that allow our partners to increase their capacity over their original plan.

This is usually followed by the question, “Why weren’t we always running this way?” Major business disruptions like the current pandemic usually result in businesses taking a good look at their operation to try and find ways to do more with less. This has never been truer than now, when space is at a premium, and governments are placing arbitrary limits on the capacity of attractions.

This article follows one of our recent projects where we used agent-based simulation to find a 14% increase in capacity for our client while still maintaining social distancing simply by redesigning the event.

A client came to us 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.

Data is not always available due to closures or inaccurate representations of capacity. Because of this, we use a combination of operational subject-matter experts, available data, and our industry experience to develop detailed assumptions for group demographics, arrival rates, overall length of stay, operational flow, way-finding decisions, and dwell times throughout the attraction. All of these inputs, and making solid assumptions, are critical to building a robust model.

Throughout the development of the model we received great input from the client operations team to ensure that the model accurately depicts the attraction experience. Once a valid model was created, we used our main evaluation metrics – instantaneous guest counts and time in queue – to determine that the points of interest (POI) in the attraction were front loaded. In previous years, up to 50% of the show content was placed in the first 30% of the experience. This created several problems:

1. Overcrowding at the beginning of the show became a bottleneck.

2. This bottleneck caused the queue to back up quickly.

3. The unbalanced experience caused reduced capacity in the overall venue.

Working closely with the operations team, our goal was to determine a few POI from the front of the experience that could be moved to a less crowded location without creating other unintended bottlenecks.

To decide which POIs to move, and their new locations, we analyzed guest density heat maps from the simulation model. The images below show heat maps of original layout and the new layout of both the first and final segments in the attraction. The areas circled in red highlight the change in guest density with our recommended operational improvements.


These changes substantially improved operational efficiency and we were able to run higher demand scenarios with the new layout. In addition, guests were able to spend a balanced amount of time throughout each house in the event. Based upon our estimated time in queue, we determined that additional queuing was not required as the current queue layout held up to 30 minutes of demand.  With timed-ticketing, the client would be able to ensure the queue never exceeded the available space.

Making sure to maintain guest experience with the new layout of the event, the recommended daily capacity is ~40% of their pre-COVID peak day due to social distancing. This finding is notably lower than the typical government regulations mandating 50% capacity for an attractions operation. Opening at 50% of their peak capacity with no operational changes would likely have caused a public health hazard that could have produced negative press. Making these small operational improvements allowed the client to safely maximize their profits without impacting guest experience. Below is a clip of the simulation showing the attraction with the changes that improved operational efficiency.


Even with these operational improvements, we identified some areas of high guest density in the event where additional measures may be needed to mitigate congestion. By identifying these ahead of time, inexpensive strategies can be implemented to address these problem areas. This includes use of signage or ground markings guiding people where to view or wait for a popular attraction, designating a pathway through the experience where guests may pass other groups, or an employee monitoring the flow of guests through a high congestion area.

Simulation modeling helped this client in a set of complementary ways to maximize event experiences for their guests. The advanced analytic techniques helped them better understand the capacity at which they can safely open their experience. The analysis also allowed them to increase their total revenue, via increased throughput, relative to their plan by making minor layout changes. While this work was needed because of COVID-19, the operational improvements have been available for years; we just needed the right tools to find them.

How Can We Help?

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your business needs.

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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optimize restaurants coronavirus increase table turn time

How To Maximize Restaurant Throughput By Minimizing Table Turn Time

by Susan Dekker, Sr. Consultant, Integrated Insight

The restaurant industry is beginning to open back up to dine-in guests with social distancing restrictions in place. This results in a limit to the total number of customers that can be inside the facility at one time.

How can food and beverage locations maximize throughput given that they can’t serve as many people in the dining room at once? A restaurant should evaluate many different options, such as initiatives to fully develop the takeout and delivery experience. Another option may be to expand the typical meal periods to spread demand throughout the day. Still other possibilities include focusing on family meals, gift cards, or mobile apps.  Here we will focus on the most effective way to increase dine-in capacity in a space-constrained environment by minimizing table turn time to make the most of customers already at your door.

Here are the three steps to optimize table turn time:

1. Measure Your Baseline

Total meals served is a function of the number of people in the dining room and how long it takes them to eat. Government regulations are still very much in flux, and the number of people in the dining room will likely be influenced by these rules. New sanitization procedures and changing guest behaviors may cause your table turn time to increase. Restaurant owners now more than ever need to be even more savvy to maximize total meals served.

increasing table turn time restaurant

The first step before making any changes is to understand your baseline. Map out each step of the process and time how long each of the steps take. If you’re unable to directly measure the process, consult with operators and servers to estimate these times. Some of these aspects are dependent on the guest (e.g., how long it takes to eat), but most are within direct control of the restaurant (e.g., how long until a busser arrives at a table after the party leaves). A process may look like this (a shortened version of the many steps involved in food service).

table turn time graphic
2. Optimize what you can

After measuring your baseline, sit down with key team members to discuss what you see. Identify which areas you think you can influence without impacting guest experience or quality of service. The process may look something like this:

There are many best practices you can use even before a guest sits down. Reservations are always tricky, and may be a necessity in the post-coronavirus-outbreak world to manage guest arrivals. However, reservations can mean you’re holding an empty table for a party who shows up late, if at all. Don’t seat incomplete parties – this extends table turn time as it is longer until the guests place their entrée order. Balance new tables across sections to not overwhelm a single server with many new tables at once. Did section four just get the last three new tables? If so, maybe put the next party in section two.

Now is a great time to evaluate your menu and remove items that are complicated to cook. Streamlining the menu has many benefits including reduced inventory and food waste, and also can improve table turn time. Optimizing the menu can both reduce the decision time for a customer prior to order, and shorten the cook time by eliminating complex meals.

restaurant-waiter-standing-near-two-customers-vector-17099437 copy

During Meal
After the guests are seated, understand their expectations for the meal early on. Some customers are seeking an expedited experience, and will be pleased with quicker service rather than feel rushed. Consider asking questions like:

“Is this your first time here?” – If they’re a repeat customer, they don’t need the typical run-down of the menu. You can just highlight key changes. They also will probably be ready to order quicker.

“What brings you in?” – Do they have another commitment immediately after? Then they may be in a rush to finish.


Ensure an up-to-date menu is online. You can direct guests to view this menu on their mobile device as they are seated. This not only eliminates a contact point, but may also reduce decision-making time as a guest does not have to wait for a menu (and may even make a decision prior to arrival).

While making rounds across tables, consolidate trips as much as possible. For example, bring waters when you walk to the table to take drink orders. While this tip sounds obvious, actually observe server trips. Spend an hour on a busy night timing how long a server spends walking back and forth. Specifically look for wasted trips or wasted motion. A few extra seconds to pick up a straw doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this time adds up when multiplied over hundreds of parties.

Especially during non-peak periods, a server may have small downtimes with a few minutes of idle time. Have a list of non-time-sensitive tasks for servers, such as filling sauce containers or rolling napkins.

Finally, consumer demand in the midst of the covid-19 outbreak may exceed the limited dining room capacity due to social distancing regulations. If so, consider fully eliminating steps from your table turn time. An example of this would be to only offer dessert to-go.

After meal

Paying the check is often one of the longest parts of the dinner experience, and for guests in a hurry, can be one of the most frustrating. Guest expectations are also changing because of coronavirus, so consider mobile payment terminals that can accept contactless payment. If you continue to use a traditional POS station, consider pre-printing guest checks to immediately hand over when appropriate.

Reset tables as quickly as possible. Ensure each person understands their responsibility and leverage communication best practices to alert when a step is complete (e.g., who clears plates, wipes down, sanitizes, etc).


We built a quick simulation to illustrate the impact of reducing table turn time on the number of parties a restaurant can serve.  If the peak dinner operation is assumed to be four hours, reducing the table turn time from 1 hour to 46 minutes (24%), allowed for a 28% increase in the number of tables served, or 21 more parties.  This change should allow the restaurant to increase their profits by more than 28% given the overhead of staff and facilities are held constant.

how to increase table turn time in restaurants
3. Standardize, Train and Sustain Employees

Making lasting change needs buy-in from the staff. There is an easy value statement: More guests coming through in the same time period means more opportunity for tips. Increase buy-in by having the staff brainstorm and share their own tactics.

Create a training plan to roll-out any standardized procedure changes, and include best practices that can be used at the server’s discretion. Make sure each person recognizes how their role contributes to the greater goal, and how roles interact.

Set targets for how long certain steps should take, and regularly evaluate if you are hitting your table turn time goals. For example, track ticket times to see if servers are meeting the target time. If not, evaluate why and brainstorm actions.

If you are the manager, be present during busiest times. The dinner rush is not the time to be doing paperwork in the back office. This gives you credibility among your employees that you actually understand the operation. You can also lend a helping hand to support if needed.

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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

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

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