Growing up, as a millennial, one of my favorite mantras has always been, ‘work smarter, not harder.’ And when you think about all the qualities that make up a millennial, it makes sense that the idea of doing things with less, amounting at the same output, is so appealing. We want everything to happen instantly, so if we can cut down the total time or energy it takes to complete something, we flock to it. This is one of the basic components to throughput: reducing the amount of time it takes to produce a final product.
Throughput involves every part of a business: labor, technology, equipment, design. They all work together to influence your ability to serve guests in an efficient amount of time. And with the hyper saturated market where consumers have food options at every turn, throughput is more important than ever. Today we’ll look at throughput reduction as a growth strategy, becoming more efficient with less resources, or as millennials so eloquently put it: working smarter, instead of harder.
Let’s start with a formal definition of throughput, throughput is a ‘sales-building’ concept measured by how many customers can be served per hour. To truly evaluate your throughput you have to start clocking customer time from the moment they arrive to your parking lot to the time they walk out your door. Additionally, to really master throughput, you must create an environment that serves the most customers per hour while also creating a positive customer experience. Otherwise you’re just serving people fast and that doesn’t necessarily translate to repeat customers.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Finding the Balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
So how do find that balance? Throughput has to take into consideration the big picture of your operations. This includes menu complexity, building design, employee training, queuing, food prep, waste management, and more depending on the complexity of your operations.
To find your balance, industry experts suggest taking a step back and observing a full day of operations. Really observe every detail you can and make notes of areas that cause bottlenecks in the flow of service. Pay special attention to your employees and their roles within your organization. Do they have clear focus on their duties or do they need additional training or even a better outline of their responsibilities? Also pay attention to your back of house, is food being prepared efficiently enough? Are there things you can prep before a rush that would reduce throughput? Does your equipment slow you down? These are all factors to watch as you observe your business for the day.
After observing your operations, make sure to take time to talk to your customers as well. We mentioned before that throughput includes speed of service AND customer satisfaction, so you must find out what your customers really think. Come up with a list of questions you think would best serve your research.
Some examples include: was the menu too complicated, or did you find it easy to order? Was your food prepared to your satisfaction? Depending on the type of operation you have, you may also want to ask, did you have any trouble finding a place to sit? Was it difficult to find things like napkins, utensils, or condiments? Try and think about all the touch points your customer has with your business and get to the heart of what makes them a good or bad experience.
Once you start pin pointing areas that cause a slowdown of operations or customer dissatisfaction you’ll have a better idea of things that need to be addressed to start improving your throughput. If you have to tackle each item, one at a time, go for it that way. With each modification you make, you should see an immediate improvement in either speed or customer satisfaction. If it doesn’t improve one of those two factors than you may need to revisit the item for further modification.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . Great Examples to Reference . . . . . . . . . . . . .
If you’re still feeling unsure about how to tackle throughput, take a good look at Chipotle’s model of business. They are the kings of throughput with four proven strategies to reduce customer wait time. Their four-point strategy actually allowed them to increase transactions by six customers per hour in their peak times of lunch a dinner. Which may not sound like much, but even just 6 additional transactions per day can translate to about a 1-percent increase in transaction growth.
So don’t wait any longer to start examining your throughput. Remember as you analyze your strengths and weaknesses that throughput is a focus on speed of service AND customer satisfaction. To be really successful you must balance both as you forge ahead.