Today, we went to the famous Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Times Square. It’s a classic tourist attraction where servers sing show-tunes while they pour coffee and wait on guests.
A large percentage of these servers go on to perform on Broadway, so much so that every play on Broadway right now has an alum from Ellen’s Stardust Diner in it.
Because of this fame and reputation, there is almost always a line outside the restaurant. The songs keep flowing, and the entertainment doesn’t stop, so how do you make sure guests don’t stay for hours on end while avoiding an awkward conversation urging them to leave?
The solution they’ve found is to have a routine pitch every 45-60 minutes explaining what the diner is, and asking for donations. Shortly after, they sing happy birthday to any and all guests in the restaurant. While the interruptions make perfect sense the first time around, when you hear them a second time, it’s painfully obvious they are rehearsed. So much so that it’s hard to listen to again.
It’s a brilliant example of unpleasant design. The rehearsed pitch serves a strong purpose, but it also signals to the lingering party that they’ve been present for too long.
No one wants to hear it twice, prompting calls to the waiter for the check and a quick exit. Thus, turning tables and allowing more people to dine. A win for all and the quintessential example of unpleasant design.