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Implement queue number system at food centres

Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi's suggestion to harness technology to manage the problem of seat shortage and "choping" is sound (Address lack of capacity to tackle 'choping'; April 17).

It is more effective to engineer solutions by redesigning the environment than to expect people to change their behaviour overnight, since deep-rooted habits are hard to reverse.

The demand for seats at food centres gives rise to many problems besides that of choping.

Even before we can reserve a table, we need to navigate the warren of tables, and peer over the shoulders of diners to gauge whether they are finishing their food soon. We would then stand next to such a table, hoping it would be imminently available.

Not only is it awkward to be breathing down the necks of diners, but it is also uncomfortable for those diners, knowing that there are people waiting for their seats while they are trying to enjoy their food.

Sometimes, misunderstandings occur when two or more parties stake out the same table. It is also dangerous to be milling around the walkways where people are carrying hot food.

One solution is to have patrons take a queue number based on the number of people in their party, and enter only when a table is available, unless they are ordering takeaways. Patrons can also opt to be notified of table availability via SMS. This can free them from standing around in the vicinity of the food centre.

As the system assigns tables based on the number of people in the party, it will ensure the optimal allocation of people to tables, thus alleviating seat redundancy.

Overhead lights, similar to those used in carparks, can indicate when and where a table is vacant.

A token can also be programmed that would alert people if they have spent too much time at a table. This would ensure that people do not linger over their meals and deprive other people of a seat.

With a queue system, the problem of getting a seat at food centres will become a thing of the past.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 23, 2017, with the headline 'Implement queue number system at food centres'. Print Edition | Subscribe