Foodservice by Design

Team members from Profitality-Labor Guru discuss how industrial engineering can be applied to the foodservice industry.


A Little Goes a Long Way

The start of a new year is a time when people naturally assess their personal lives, including what they’ve accomplished and what they hope to do in the coming year.

Savvy business leaders do the same for their organizations as well as themselves. When making a list of New Year’s resolutions, it’s common to try to set some pretty big goals. In reality, though, setting and achieving smaller goals can have a pretty big impact on individuals and organizations, including restaurants. These small changes often ripple through an organization and, in doing so, lead to other changes. When paired with sound strategic and operational plans, this approach can go a long way to helping both people and companies achieve their goals.

One big obstacle to implementing even the smallest of changes, though, is an internal mindset that says “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Time and time again, restaurants do not question why they do some of the things they do and often continue to build upon the original inefficiencies, compounding the issue.

A prime example of this is an operator who began to place an additional plate underneath an entrée plate for a particular menu item. This was done to try to minimize the heat transfer from the entrée plate to the guest. This practice eventually spread to more than 80% of the concept’s entrées, despite the heat not transferring through the plate for most of them. When we asked why the restaurant continues to do this, the response was “That’s the way we’ve done it for years.”

I do not think the restaurant’s leadership ever really questioned why this was done and just acclimated to the redundancy. Asking why this was done led to the realization the practice was excessive and not necessary. Furthermore, adding an extra plate when it was not necessary led to more dishes to wash, which impacts labor, chemical usage, utilities and more. A simple switch of reverting back to single plating significantly reduced dish labor requirements due to halving the dish work content per entrée.

Another example is a better burger concept that had 11 different buns for its 16 burgers. Like many things, the chain’s sales mix and bun mix followed the Pareto principle, where approximately 80% of its burger sales came from 20% of its burger offerings. This translates into the majority of sales coming from three to four burger types that use two to three different buns. When the operator saw this information, they began questioning the menu complexity, not only among the burgers, but other items, too. Reducing the bun options from 11 to four greatly reduced operational complexities for this concept. In addition to reducing the complexity for burger assembly and bun toasting, this “small” change had impact in other areas as well, from supply chain simplification to reducing storage requirements.

A bit of self-reflection can be helpful in all aspects of restaurant operations. Questioning why certain procedures are in place can sometimes result in identifying dated processes that are prime for change or removal. The changes do not need to be mind-altering because remember sometimes a little can go a long way.