Industrial Engineering in Foodservice Facility Design

Part 4 in a series of posts on how industrial engineering philosophies and techniques can be applied to foodservice operations.

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We keep hearing about concepts developing new prototype facilities to deliver a higher level of customer experience that springs the restaurant into the future. Our group, Profitality, has been fortunate to lead the functional design aspect for three of these that have been communicated in the industry press recently: Buffalo Wild Wings, Domino’s Pizza and Checkers Drive-In.

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Given their shiny nature, new prototypes usually generate big headlines but countless chains forget to take some of the new design features and develop designs they can efficiently apply to existing locations. Undertaking such roll-back efforts is critical to keeping a brand healthy, since these initiatives help keep older facilities current and allow a consistent presentation and execution of the concept from location to location. This includes both the retail design that the customer sees, as well as the operating design, which the customer may not see. Keep in mind, though, just because customers may not see functional changes to an operating design they most certainly feel it. Undertaking the cosmetic aspect of a retrofit without looking and changing the functional operating design can sometimes result in the equivalent of “adding lipstick to a pig.” I am being a bit graphic, but you likely know what I mean.

How often have you seen a new prototype be so drastically different than the chain’s existing units that it makes you feel as if you are in a different concept? The same can be said of the operating parameters that come with the new design. After all, a concept uses these operating parameters to drive efficiency in labor deployment, customer service, product quality and new menu innovation.

Brands need to realize that when updating their prototype an all or nothing approach is not necessary. A blue sky approach, although sexy and necessary to create an understanding of how far the concept could go, may not lead to the new idea being rolled out system wide in the existing base of units, resulting in a different execution of the customer experience on a location by location basis.

An option is to use the same industrial engineering principles that facilitate the new operating system design for a new prototype, to develop a design for the existing restaurants. These principles are applied with a different set of constraints, since they deal with an existing physical space. The goal should be to develop several retrofit options that will facilitate implementation of some aspects of the design along the way — in a sort of tiered way.

So how do you do this? Well by looking at the design as a kit-of-parts (KOP) that are grouped together to deliver an impact. Each KOP has a specific cost and a specific benefit. For a KOP to be implemented it has to deliver a positive return-on-investment. The following schematic shows a hypothetical grouping of initiatives.

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