In this blog post I would like to explore the relationship between two different yet related design approaches and methodologies: analytical and empirical.
Both approaches bring a lot to the table. For example, individuals with a college education can be valuable to an organization because their enormous analytical (book) knowledge can add efficiency to a concept.
Professionals working in their respective foodservice design businesses for a while have a significant level of empirical (experience-based) knowledge. As the old adage goes, nothing replaces experience.
But, in my opinion, the blending of these two areas provides the magical potion for the best design, thus driving the highest value to a foodservice concept. The sum of these two areas together adds up to more than their parts and can lead to an optimum design.
Analytical Knowledge + Empirical Knowledge = Optimum Concept Design
You may notice that boardroom discussions on a particular project may focus heavily on the empirical (experience) dimension. Oftentimes it becomes a discussion of opinions based on one person's experience compared to that of someone else. When you add the analytical dimension the decision becomes more objective and clear, making for a much more productive discussion. It is almost as if the analytics provide the tie breaking piece to drive decision making and thus providing the design with a differentiating aspect. I often say that "the truth will set you free" and analytics can provide this dimension.
Most good executives know what generally ails their foodservice concept. But without the combination of analytical and objective information, they find themselves in a quandary to identify the precise issue, which makes it more of a struggle to determine the best decision. This is akin to not feeling well, but not knowing what is driving the illness. When this happens, these foodservice executives should seek out a solutions provider that balances analytical knowledge acquired in school with their clinical experience.
By the way, foodservice concepts and people are very similar to humans in that no two are the same – much like snowflakes. Even concepts competing in the same category, say pizza, will have different operating systems, menus, recipes, layout, equipment, deployment schemes, marketing plans and brand promises and "differentiating propositions" for the customers. In some cases the differences may be subtle but they are still different. The reality is brand executives should use these variables to differentiate their concepts from the competition, shifting the focus from price.
Here is an example in the area of foodservice equipment and resource investment. A detailed, industrial engineering-oriented time and motion analysis of equipment usage can lead to a deeper understanding of how an operation uses a piece of equipment. It may show that piece of equipment works at a high capacity for only one hour each day. Since the operator remembers from experience (empirical) that the equipment is fully utilized at some point in time during the day, the decision is made to add a second piece, driving up the cost of investment. The time and motion study may suggest another option, such as changing the sequence of cook cycles, since it may show that before and after this very limited time peak usage, the piece of equipment is used scarcely, leading to the conclusion that a duplicate item is not needed. Instead, the operation should implement a new method to cook, a new process and procedure for the employee to follow, which does not cost any capital, vs. buying a new piece of equipment, which would add capital and operating costs.
So I suggest that as you go through the design process, apply analytical methodology, perhaps industrial engineering methodologies, to the experience (empirics) through the design process, since this is the best way to really achieve Foodservice by Design, resulting in the best design that will deliver optimum profits and hospitality.