Would you queue for a cheeseburger?

On my recent AHA Vic trip to Chicago, I was lucky enough to have the inside word on where to dine and what to order. I learned a lot! Many different venues, with many different quirks to draw those customers in. Au Cheval was one of these quirky venues. Small, cute, and cheerful - but the main attraction is their cheeseburgers. World renowned in fact! My fascination stemmed from the (on average) 3-hour queue, how they attract these diners, and how they maximise their revenue during the wait. From 11 am to midnight, there is a 100m queue of people waiting with their $8.95 in their hot little hands.

In the haze of my youth, I may have occasionally (or more than occasionally) queued for the latest nightclub or bar, but I am fascinated with the huge numbers of people choosing to queue for food. I’m not talking a 10-15 minute table wait, it’s the whole several hours long queueing phenomenon, and how venues can maximise their revenue with a line out the door. How do venues keep a buzzing line creating a fuss on the street, but also customers spending their dollars inside simultaneously?

I couldn’t help but think when I was at Au Cheval, that every patron standing outside was lost revenue. They could have this down to a well-choreographed dance, anyone willing to wait is guided to the bar for a pre-dinner drink, generating revenue while keeping the customer occupied and enjoying their night. A win/win. In an age where UberEats is proving that time is more precious than money, how do people get swept up in the hype, and more importantly how can venues sweep up the people?

In this day and age with all the online ability for bookings and table management, I find this phenomenon fascinating. Why would one choose to line up for hours rather than pre-book, and know there’s a seat with your name on it? Part of the reason seems to be the establishment themselves.

Closer to home, there are venues in Australia where people queue to get to the front of the line, only to be told they have now joined another “waitlist” where they will call you in later. These venues do not allow you to pre-book. By doing this, the venue has kept a certain enigma about them and they remain one of the places to visit.

When I started doing my research on this topic, I thought it could be an age thing. When you are young, you may almost do anything to be seen as on trend, including queueing for hours for an original glazed. I mean once you get in there and snap and insta your meal, how elusive that you’ve been let into this exclusive venue. Little do your followers know that you had to stand in the rain for 2 hours to get the perfect pic!

It is fair to say that upon new venues opening, there is a rush, queue or desire to be seen and heard there however it seems rare that this initial burst has longevity. The construction behind the longevity fascinates me, and how venues create this framework, as I’m sure this craze is certainly not suited to all venues and kudos to those who have the formula right.