It is not how long it is, but how you make it long – waiting lines in a multi-step service process



Accurate signals are essential to ensure the integrity of the feedback mechanism in systems. But in a multi-step service process such as a restaurant business, where the flow capacities of the service steps are not identical, visible signals may not indicate the true magnitude to which the system should respond. Specifically, the visible standing queue may not reflect the full length of the waiting line. And if potential customers cannot accurately judge the actual length of the waiting line, varying meal prices to regulate queue length would not be an effective feedback mechanism. Instead, queue length can be more effectively controlled by correctly identifying and widening the most binding bottleneck. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.