Can You Design a One-Square-Foot Back of House?

Let industrial engineering techniques inspire you. 

Hopefully you read my last two blog posts on prototype development and on the unimportance of making the back of the house big. If you did not, please to back and read them, otherwise, this post will not make as much sense.

So how do you shrink the back of the house to achieve your goal of having it measure just one square foot? Spoiler alert: creating such a small back of house is impossible. Sorry to burst your bubble. But the idea of refining in the back of the house, often called right sizing, should always be an aspiration. To get to the right space size and the right level of resources, I recommend using an analytical process that includes intimate knowledge of all the operating parameters and how they interact with each other.

You can employ several industrial engineering (IE) techniques to help find the right answer. Let me walk you through the steps.

Step 1 – Work Sampling: For existing operations, measure how much of each resource the concept uses today. If you don't know how the concept currently functions and uses its resources how can you create a design to meet future requirements? This needs to happen in an objective and quantitative manner that provides a foundation of reality.

Step 2 – Developing Capacity Requirements: Understand the menu. Analyze each item down to the smallest component and determine the quantity necessary to produce the desired sales level.

Step 3 – Forecasting and Correlation Analysis: Define the production needs by equipment and work station, based on the number of components that the staff has to produce, including projections for future menu items and increased sales. Warning: incorporating future needs will add a level of uncertainty to the exercise, but it must be done, so you don't get caught short-handed as the concept grows and evolves.

KitchenMap2Kitchen Peak Process Map Sketch (2 Employees)Step 4 – Process Mapping: Understand the current steps necessary to produce all menu items and the responsibilities for each employee to get the work done, including how they work with each other across the different work stations and how they interface with the equipment and the work stations. As part of this step, you can also look into re-engineering the tasks, making them easier to execute and adding efficiencies to the process that positively impact service, quality, and/or labor. Clue: look for employee crossover during the operations (see sketch, left), and figure out ways to eliminate this issue.

Step 5 – Plan Layout, Simulation, Ergonomics: Create a design of the necessary "right-sized resources" pieced back together in a more efficient way, using the right resources, in the right place, at the right time. Develop the new design using the objective data and information developed in the prior steps, with the right sprinkling of experience, along with a crystal ball of what may come in the future. While not easy, this step is essential when it comes to ensuring success.

By the way, you can apply these same techniques to optimize the size and design of the front of the house. So while re-designing the back of the house, you might as well go after right-sizing the front at the same time to optimize the facility and the employee journey.

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