Sysco reports sales increased. The use of local sourcing and organic ingredients increases food safety risks. The number of c-stores grew last year but at a very slow rate. Fast-food restaurant traffic was flat last year while traffic at other restaurants declined. Technology investment pays off for Panera Bread.
When we design an operating system or equipment platform for foodservice employees to use, oftentimes our zeal to provide the most complete solution results in our creating something that is impractical or even impossible to use. And as we all know, what’s easy is what gets done in any foodservice environment.
That’s why I am firm believer that less is often more when it comes to foodservice design. Simply put, for any foodservice design to create a competitive advantage it needs to facilitate the work for the employees in order to enable flawless execution. The so-called bells and whistles any solution may have become irrelevant if they don’t make execution easier.
This is why I believe that less is more very often and perhaps our primary design principle to use is KISS: Keep it Simple Stupid.
Last month the world saw a perfect example of how keeping it simple can produce remarkable results as we watched the rescue of the miners in Chile. I don’t know about you, but I found myself starting at the TV quite often as each of the 33 miners emerged from below ground. Looking closely at the how the miners were freed you can see it was a combination of significant teamwork and an application of existing technology. Using a less is more mentality the rescuers took available tools and technology and developed a new application that got the job done.
At the heart of the operation was a giant drill, with a capsule device, both of which have been around quite some time and both of which had to go into the earth for one-third of a mile. Perhaps we may think that the technology was revolutionary, since most of us are not familiar with it. But if you think about it, what is so new about a drill and a capsule? Let’s not forget that before these devices were put to use, the rescuers had to find the trapped miners. Guess what technology they used? Maps and drawings of the area – neither of which were very revolutionary.
The focus of the operation was more around how to use existing technologies to engineer the rescue. This was accomplished by applying sheer brain power and a huge level of teamwork. Clearly this rescue was a tremendous feat and we can all learn from it as we go about our jobs as foodservice professionals.
When it comes to foodservice design, generally speaking, we are not in the business of rescuing people. Still, there is much we can learn from the approach taken to rescue these miners as we go about our business each day. Whether we are running a foodservice establishment, designing an operating system or creating technologies and equipment applications, we may want to consider applying the KISS principle, focusing on the capabilities of the end user, be they an employee or customer.
When tackling a project, look at the available resources at your disposal to see which ones might work. Grouping existing knowledge and technology in the right combination may work better than creating designs that are much more complex and glorious (sophisticated), and may not be as easy for employees or customers to use.
In reading this, some of you might be inclined to recall the old adage that insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result. While occasionally appropriate, matching the appropriate level of technology with the end users’ capabilities could produce a different result. We have to recognize that many of these ideas, as simplistic as they seem, may not have had the right combination of other variables to be successful. I believe that you can actually take an idea that did not work in the past, for whatever reasons, bring it back and it would work now with a few, in some cases minor, adjustments. Perhaps technology has advanced. Perhaps different technologies were applied individually instead of collectively or in the wrong combination. The most subtle of changes can make the biggest of differences.
One interesting fact to consider is that as the individual players within the foodservice arena become more homogenized, meaning in the eyes of the customer they have similar menus and value propositions, ideas that were previously only appropriate for one category of service, can work well in the other. That’s why today we see practices that were strictly for QSRs being put into play within the fast casual arena, for example.
As a result, we must always be on the lookout for applications or ideas that were successful in other foodservice segments and evaluate whether they will be beneficial to our projects. Just remember that you may want to keep the application simple, and that less may facilitate more impact when it comes to real execution and application at the unit level. KISS.