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Monday, February 27, 2006

Cultural Evolution

There are many influences which help to define a company's culture. When the company is involved in food service, the cultural themes often have a major impact on profit. I have visited operations where cleanliness was a dominant theme. From the entrance, to the dining room, kitchen, restrooms and even the loading dock and dumpsters, everything looks sanitary and safe.

My grandmother had two major criteria for restaurant selection: a full parking lot and clean restrooms. When we were out shopping, she would look for busy places to go for dinner. Once inside, she would ask where the restrooms were located before being seated. We never stayed for dinner if the place failed inspection.

Some operators never want to run out of food. They tend to buy too much and produce far more than required. Other operators are worried about selection. They focus on menu monotony. When their stamp of approval hits a menu revision, it's sure to be loaded with new items.

My favorite managers create a culture which rewards consistency. As a restaurant patron, I highly prefer operations with consistent standards. It is not uncommon to find the "consistency theme" in a restaurant with the "never run out" philosophy as well. If you consistently find your garbage cans loaded with spoiled produce and unused prep items, I have some straightforward advice. Do not try to change the culture through a complete makeover.

Find out how food is ordered and how prep requirements are calculated. Often, you'll hear the chef likes a 10% cushion or a 5% safety factor. Institute a policy change in stages. In stage one, change the slack to 80% of the previous factor (i.e. 8% vs. 10%). I like a 2.5% safety factor for most operations. Improved forecasts should reduce the need for higher figures.

Anyone who has seen the managers work the chalkboards at the Chesnut Hill Legal Seafood location can appreciate the alternative philosophy which encourages stockouts: "If it isn't fresh, it isn't Legal." We had countless meals there and brought plenty of out-of-towners. Spoiled fish was never a concern. Legal Seafood is not a client of mine but I imagine they abhor waste and spoilage.

3 comments:

keith gellman said...

I have to agree with you on the cleanliness factor. From my days in operations we found that through incremental budget increases in repair & maintenance in additon to group chats with staffers concerning sidework duties and "special project" duties we saw sales move up in lockstep. Same food, different attitude. It's also easy to see proper plate presentation in a clean operation. Perhaps needless to say pride improves as well. Regarding the "fresh til we run out process" used by folks like Legal seafoods I found that I never go there after 9 pm at night as a result.

keith gellman said...

I have to agree with you on the cleanliness factor. From my days in operations we found that through incremental budget increases in repair & maintenance in additon to group chats with staffers concerning sidework duties and "special project" duties we saw sales move up in lockstep. Same food, different attitude. It's also easy to see proper plate presentation in a clean operation. Perhaps needless to say pride improves as well. Regarding the "fresh til we run out process" used by folks like Legal seafoods I found that I never go there after 9 pm at night as a result.

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