When a server clears a plate before everyone is finished, he or she leaves the table with a mess of subtle but important signals. Those who are still eating are made to feel as though they are holding others up; those who are not are made to feel as though they have rushed the meal. What was originally a group dining experience becomes a group exercise in guilt.So what is going on here? Are restaurants running lean inventories of plates and tableware? Do customers get really upset if their empty plate isn't removed instantly?
George Mason economist and Marginal Revolution blogger Tyler Cowen thinks that economic forces are at work. Land prices in urban areas are going up and that means higher rents. As a result, restaurants feel more pressure to turn tables so that they can get more customers per day.