The waiter and the lemon | Breakthrough Funding

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The waiter and the lemon

A quick one minute story on making your company highly productive. 

When life gives you lemons, what do you do? The old adage says you should make lemonade, but at Pizza Express waiters don’t make lemonade they just serve it. They do have to slice them thinly for their client’s gin or vodka though.

Well they used to. Company policy dictated that as the waiters had to make drinks, they also had to cut up the lemons. Drink preparation is for waiters - food preparation is for chefs.

In this time of lingering economic uncertainty, it’s still hard to fill a restaurant, so efficiency and cost control are essential to success. The guys at Pizza Express were keen to analyse their operations and look for key financial savings wherever they could.

What’s that got to do with lemons?

The problem with splitting drink and food preparation between types of staff led to incredible inefficiency. Knife-wielding pizza chefs are chopping things all the time and are dressed and trained accordingly. Waiters aren’t.

If you’re laying tables, smoothing out napkins and polishing glasses, the lemon cutting interrupts your routine. Off you go to wash your hands, clear a workspace, find the chopping board and sharpen the knife. You get going with the slicing and then clean up afterwards and put all the equipment back. 

If you think about it, it’s completely mad. It must take at least 10 minutes maybe more. For a chef with his workspace prepared, his knife at the ready? Probably less than 30 seconds.

By spotting this and simply having their chefs chop lemons instead, the restaurant chain has apparently made “significant financial savings.” That’s according to Pizza Express Chief Executive Richard Hodgson in an interview with the BBC.

The pizza chain’s simplistic reassignment of the master of lemons is an idea that should speak to all business owners – the concept of increasing staff efficiency wherever possible can only be good for the economy, and an even greater help to a small business owner trying to improve the bottom line.

Remember this lemon story and constantly question your processes and staff roles. Everybody, most especially those who are operational or client facing, should be encouraged to make suggestions for improvements. Small gains in time management or productivity can go a long way to setting a company on their way to success, but you have to be constantly vigilant.

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