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Speed of Service 6: Execute Speedy Procedures

18 Oct

Are you a fast food manager who has to reduce his speed of service? Of course you are; we all are. Everyone is under immense pressure from above to reduce service times. My latest series of posts has been over how to do just that. The sixth and final tip is the most obvious one: execute speedy procedures. This is a complex way of saying: MOVE FASTER.

Take a moment to watch what your crew is doing in the drive thru and other areas of the store that directly affect drive-thru. Are they moving as fast as they could? If not, then as their manager, it is up to you to move them along faster.

Start with how an order is taken. The greeting (if you don’t have an automatic greeter) should be quick and to the point. I favor “Hi, may I take your order?” Simple and direct. Of course, corporate may want you to advertise products in your greeting, so you may not have any control over what you say.

Second, does the cashier urge the customer along politely? If we let them, many of our customers would take all day to order. I had someone on Wednesday take ten minutes to order her food–no joke! Fortunately, that was at front register, but we can’t let our customers do a similar move in drive-thru. To that end, the cashier should be in control of the flow of the order, not the customer. For example, instead of, “What kind of drink would you like with your value meal?” ask “Would you like a Coke (or Pepsi) with that?” Close-ended questions help drive-thru speed while open-ended ones invite a lot of thought.

Always assume the medium size when none is specified. Learning that trick has saved me so many seconds in drive-thru it is unbelievable.

Third, is your kitchen listening to the order as it is being taken and reacting to the order? Menu items that are seldom ordered are not in easy reach. Is someone immediately setting those items up when they are ordered?

Fourth, is your drive-thru cashier multitasking? This is extremely important and can’t be stressed enough. No one is going to survive in drive-thru if they can’t get drinks at the same time as someone is talking. That is the minimum multitasking that someone must do. The really good ones will be able to take an order and talk to someone at the window at the same time. I have a cashier who can take an order, talk to a customer, get all of the drinks, and text her friends on her phone–all without missing a beat. That’s multitasking! You won’t find many like that, so hold on to the ones that you do find.

Fifth, is your cashier repeating the order back each time? This is a cardinal sin in the fast-paced world of drive-thru. Never repeat an order back unless there is some question of accuracy or the customer requests it. We all know that most of the time the customer doesn’t remember what he just ordered, so there is little point to repeating it unless he requests it. While multitasking, it is possible that something got missed, but usually the cashier has a gut feeling that is the case, and then should repeat back the order just to be sure. But repeating the order should be a rarity. If a cashier is repeating a majority of the orders back because of a question of accuracy, then that person isn’t a drive-thru cashier and should be moved.

Are your people moving as fast as they could be? Probably not. Diagnose the problems at each position and clear up the bottlenecks, and you’ll have a faster team and much lower drive-thru times.

Speed of Service 5: Use Enough Headsets

17 Oct

No matter what, your superiors will always ask for faster service. So I’ve been been blogging my best tips for reducing speed of service. Tip five is pretty straightforward: Use enough drive-thru headsets.

In a perfect world, the drive-thru attendant, the cash collector, the entire drive-thru side of the kitchen, the manager, the fry person, and the expediter will all be wearing headsets. That comes to about seven headsets, which of course I’m sure that no store actually has all seven headsets functional at the same time. Five should work, so the manager, both drive-thru attendants, the fry person and one of the kitchen staffers will each have one.

Headsets are good for more than just listening to customers. Headsets are invaluable to communicate between team members. This minimizes shouting across the store. I know as a manager many times I’ve given people directions over the headsets. If anyone walks away from his station to get something, he knows immediately if there is an order and that he must return. No searching for him or having to have someone temporarily step into his position.

In short, for listening to orders and in-store communication, having enough drive-thru headsets available is very important.

Speed of Service 4: Stock Enough Product

16 Oct

Every manager of fast food is faced with the question of reducing his service time at some point. It is never fast enough for the big wigs. So I’ve been blogging some of my tips for decreasing speed of service. The fourth tip is to stock enough product.

This may seem elementary, but it is shocking just how many new managers don’t think to make sure that the store is stocked for a rush. It is important to check the kitchen area to insure that you have enough meat and fried products to survive at least what sales are projected for the peak rush. This way no one has to stop and cook additional product; everyone can focus solely on the customers.

It doesn’t stop at just product. Make sure that there are enough condiments and supplies in the drive-thru. Make sure that you have enough straws, ketchup packets, cups, lids, cash, rolled coin, and receipt tape on hand. Make sure that your pop dispensers are full. Make sure your CO2 tank has enough in it. Make sure that your shake mix is full. Make sure that you have enough bags, sauces, napkins, and fry cartons, too.

If at all possible, make sure that no one has to leave their station for anything during peak lunch and peak dinner. This will insure the best possible service to your customers, and the fastest possible service. That wins loyal customers and generates positive word of mouth faster than anything else you can do.

Speed of Service 3: Right Number of People in the Right Place at the Right Time

15 Oct

The third point to better speed of service is to have the right number of people in the right place at the right time. This begins with a properly done crew schedule, and ends with the manager on duty positioning his people correctly.

A properly done crew schedule is more than just putting names on the page. It considers the sales projections carefully as well as the abilities of the people. Nothing hurts worse than having no one that knows cash register or (worse!) having all cashiers and no one that knows how to make food! The sales projections will help with getting the right number of people for the sales volume. The schedule maker must then determine who to put at that particular time.

The manager on duty must then, with the people given him, make the determination of who to put where. Most places provide a chart that helps you determine where to put people based on the number of people and projected sales volume.

The challenge now becomes keeping the people organized in the assigned positions, because most people don’t like being confined to just one spot for very long. Especially if there’s downtime. But it’s essential to have the people ready to serve the customers. Precious seconds can be lost waiting for someone to return to his position or having to fill that position to the neglect of another.

Keeping people organized is the hardest, but most essential part, of this job.

Speed of Service 2: Organize for Speed

14 Oct

The question of lowering speed of service comes to every fast food manager. Let’s face it–considerable pressure is applied from above to achieve and maintain a gold standard service time. In a previous post, I have identified six points for faster service. I am now discussing each one in separate post.

Point 2 is organize for speed. In the drive-thru, everything should be organized for speed. Each condiment and supply should be within arm’s reach of the drive-thru attendant. They should remain in a consistent place from one day to the next so that precious seconds aren’t lost looking for them. Ideally, the drive-thru area should be a small space so that precious seconds aren’t wasted walking from one counter to another in order to retrieve something. That way, everything stays at an arm’s length.

The drive-thru area should never be messy. Each item should have a place and be in its place at all times. Again, this helps save precious seconds.

Organization isn’t just for items in the drive-thru. Same thing goes for the people that staff the drive-thru. The people should remain in their positions at all times, waiting to serve the customers. In a perfect world, that would be possible. But we live in a world where the only thing that matters more than the drive thru time is the cost of labor. That means that people can’t just be standing around idly; they must keep busy with other tasks.

At all costs, minimize the tasks that the drive-thru attendants work on. This way, they can be ready to serve customers. At Burger King, it is easy to have the drive thru attendant stock the Kid’s Meal bags, since these bags are usually kept in a box near the drive-thru station. It is “busy work” that can be abandoned in favor of waiting on a customer at any time and returned to just as easily. Any task assigned to the drive-thru attendant should fit that same bill: easy to leave, easy to return to.

The next item for our consideration is having the right people in the right place at the right time. That goes hand-in-hand with organization. Instead of organizing products, it is organizing people. We’ll cover that tomorrow.

Speed of Service 1: Be a Leader

13 Oct

It’s a question faced by every fast food manager at some point in his career: how do I decrease my speed of service? Let’s face it–there is a lot of pressure from above you to do so. Most of the time, the higher-ups will not accept the fact that customers do a lot of little things to increase your speed of service (e.g. not having money ready or taking a super-long time to order). But it’s pointless to vilify the customer when there is so much that can be done by the store’s employees to decrease speed of serivce.

In the previous post, I identified six points for faster service. I will now expound on what they mean. The first point is to simply be a leader. What does that mean?

As the visible head of the organization, your people look to you to get their cues. They actually follow you. Which means that if you’re all about speed of service, then they will be all about speed of service. If you act like speed of service isn’t a big deal, then so will they.

Start by clearly defining the speed of service goal for the shift. At Burger King, our gold standard is less than two minutes and thirty seconds. So I establish that as the goal right off the bat, and I communicate that goal to everyone. Our timer gives an average when there are no cars in drive-thru, so on the rare chance that the drive-thru is empty, I call the time out and give everyone feedback on how they’re doing–either positive or negative.

In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell talks about the Law of Navigation, which says that only a leader can chart the course. It is up to the leader to chart the course on speed of service. The old axiom holds true: “Whoever fails to plan plans to fail.” You need a solid plan in addition to motivation. You need to chart the course. People need to be placed right, the store needs to be set up right, there needs to be enough food to get you through the rush so that everyone can be assisting customers and helping out with service instead of cooking. These points will be covered in later posts, but they’re worth noting at least for now.

In short, if speed of service is in all you say and do, that will rub off on your people and they will be all about speed, too. Clearly define an appropriate goal. Plan your shift to meet that goal, and set up your store for speed.

Six Tips for Getting Better Speed of Service Results

12 Oct

There are many ways to improve speed of service results. Here are six possibilities:

  1. Be a leader
  2. Organize for speed
  3. Right number of people in the right place at the right time
  4. Stock enough product, condiments, and other supplies
  5. Use enough headsets
  6. Execute speedy procedures

Each day over the next week, we’ll discuss a different point.

These points will only help your restaurant get faster. If you want to bring customers back, you can’t just practice speed of service. You need to practice speed with service. Customers will respond to fast, friendly service. Taking care of your customers is what will bring them back time and time again.