Finding my way – an attempt to buy a socially distanced cup of coffee

Decal Application at a Dunkin’ Donuts

by Benjamin Goodheart

Over the past four months, hallmarks of our new way of life have emerged: masks and face shields, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass dividers, and floor decals that direct customers where to stand to comply with social distancing rules. These changes have all been reactive and important aspects have often been missed. In the case of social distancing decals, their placement and ability to be easily understood is inextricably linked to the queue experience. Haphazard application leads to confusion and tension among customers, ultimately leading to a poor experience.

Not quite a relaxing cup of joe

I first noticed this problem at my local Dunkin’ Donuts after it reopened six weeks ago. There are now decals on the ground that tell you how far apart to stand, but there is no queue signage. This has led to a number of awkward encounters on the queue such as people cutting each other, hem-hawing about who goes first, and obstruction of the queue by people who have already ordered. I have seen interactions escalate from awkward uncertainty to tense confrontation.

Searches for social distancing decals jumped exponentially between March 15th and May 16th

Google Trends

One has to imagine that this is not an isolated incident. According to Google Trends, searches for social distancing decals jumped exponentially between March 15th and May 16th, showing the growing demand for these types of signs. However, social distancing in brick and mortar stores is a new phenomenon and best practices for using these decals have not been established. 

“Bagel-4-U of Raritan” in Raritan, New Jersey

Clarity is key

Envirosell’s research consistently demonstrates the importance of clear queueing signage and control – a free-for-all is the last thing you want in your store. Queue equity is crucial to a good store experience – without adequate signage to help customers navigate the queue, wait and transaction times often increase, and experiences are rated more negatively. 

In addition to singular, straightforward markings to indicate a six foot distance between customers, signage for ‘queue here’, ‘wait here’, ‘pick up here’ needs to be clear and outline the area you intend this to happen. Once a customer has ordered, what is the pathway to the waiting area? Make sure the entire pathway is clear and literally outlined. 

Queue equity is crucial to a good store experience

If you are the manager of an establishment that needs a line to function, consider how your customers are going to react to hastily applied social distancing decals. Will they be confused about where the line begins? Does the confusion and frustration mean avoidance of the experience altogether? Will you lose sales over this? Taking a minute to step back and trace the customer pathway using floor decals can make all the difference. Now, I am going to get a cup of coffee.