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Where's the knob?

A consultant friend asked me to take on a project for a very busy restaurant. He already provided the team with customer service training and had several mystery shops to identify their inconsistencies however, the improvement was still marginal.

On my first "Mystery Customer" visit, I had to re-fire my entree as it was not cooked properly. On my next visit, I had to re-fire my order twice - the first time took about 7 minutes but was still under-cooked and the second time, I specifically requested to re-fire by 10 minutes and finally came out right. The server seemed embarrassed by the situation but failed to provide any kind of empowered resolution to my experience.

Many establishments use Social Media impressions as a Marketing tool to influence the decision of customers, why "likes" and high ratings are very important.

For this particular restaurant, "service" was a prominent negative metric because of the amount of words used by customers in their comments - bad service, awful, will not come back, poor service, quality, no rebate, etc. The algorithms of social media used these negative words to metri-fy a conclusion but, it could not discern what drove customers to write these key words and "operationalize" the data to uncover the real problem.

Experiencing the restaurant and dissecting the comments allowed me to provide a more concrete problem statement --- food quality is the problem, not service. Now I can ask Why 5x to find the root cause!

The following day, I was outed and introduced by the Manager to the team. My interview of the service team yielded frustrations with not having enough staff for the volume of customers every day. However, a review of the average customer per hour seem to not support their claim - peaking at an avg of 14 covers during lunch and dinner. More arresting was the absence of labor productivity standards (covers per server) for scheduling purposes.

I also interviewed the culinary staff who had enough supplies for the operations, were very engaged with each other and the service staff, and were genuinely happy... with the exception of an old, but still working equipment - the main oven. I noticed the absence of the knob and when asked, the Sous Chef replied that it has always been like that since he started a year ago. He proudly showed me a temperature gauge that is placed inside to preheat the oven to 500 degrees. He shrugged his shoulders when I asked how does he know the temperature remains the same if the oven is opened and closed throughout the operations.

It dawned on me that both entrees I ordered were baked in this oven and so are the top 3 most popular entrees in the menu. I believe I found my root cause!

The solution seems simple - purchase or retrofit a new knob to ensure temperature consistency. The real solution though is to purchase a new oven however, this capital expenditure will take months to fulfill, from approval to delivery. The team needed an interim solution that is out of their norm.

The restaurant's six months of data identified the top 3 entrees averaged 120 orders per day. Based on my observations, each entree took an average of 8-10 minutes to prepare and another 15 minutes to cook in the oven. I recommended to prepare in advance at least 50% of the top 3 entrees with a designated cook preparing more throughout the day. This solution will allow the orders to be served 10 minutes earlier and resolve not only timeliness but as well Food Quality and Preparation.

Do you have a knob? :)

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