Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Restaurant Efficiency Consultant Story

Waiter Rant is the blog home of a professional waiter whose stories about life at work have resulted in a book. He has tons of readers and still works the tables. I learned about him a couple of years ago and followed his blog for a while, but for those of us who have been in the business all our working life, the stories don't have the same punch as they might for those "just passing through" for a few years.

For reasons that escape me now I came across the blog last week and started reading a long comment thread. (I was curious why the writer said ice in the urinals of the men's room was "classy," but that's not related to what follows. ) I found this great story way down the comment thread...

For all of you who frequent restaurants and understand the need for the service to be faster, this short story is a timeless lesson on how consultants can make a difference to an organization.

Last week, we took some friends out to a new restaurant and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket. It seemed a little strange. When another waiter brought our water, I noticed he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket. Then I looked around and saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets.

When the waiter came back to serve our soup, I asked, “Why the spoon?”

“Well, he explained, “the restaurant’s owners hired Andersen Consulting to revamp all our processes. After several months of analysis, they concluded that the spoon was the most frequently dropped utensil. It represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour. If our personnel are better prepared, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift.”

As luck would have it, I dropped my spoon and he was able to replace it with his spare. “I’ll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen, instead of making an extra trip to get it right now,” he explained.

I was impressed. I also noticed that there was a string hanging out of the waiter’s fly. Looking around, I noticed that all the waiters had the same string hanging from their flies. So before he walked off, I asked the waiter, “Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?”

“Oh, certainly!” Then he lowered his voice. “Not everyone is so observant. That consulting firm I mentioned also found out that we can save time in the restroom. By tying this string to the tip of you know what, we can pull it out without touching it and eliminate the need to wash our hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 76.39 percent.

I asked, “After you get it out, how do you put it back?”

“Well,” he whispered, “I don’t know about the others, but I use the spoon.”

(Turns out this joke is old as the hills, but I hadn't heard it. I never saw it coming and laughed out loud sitting at the keyboard alone.)


vietnamcatfish said...

Good story, hootster. Shades of Proudfoot. Circa 70's.

Remember going to Bill Richard's house for dinner? I recall he served bbq pork. His untimely death via riding his bicycle-in his case, byecycle-put our world into chaos.

Btw, perhaps the waiter's name in your story is "Dick Quick."

Hoots said...

I recall Proudfoot well. When they recommended replacing the fleet of Oldsmobiles with more economical imports they crossed the line. One of the last things Mr. Richards did before he was killed was getting rid of the Alexander Proudfoot consultants.

I never ate with or knew Mr. Richards, though. That was when I first started, destined to remain a "trainee" for four years. It was over a decade before I got my own store. late bloomer, you know.(I have the distinction of being the only GM to have made it through CUMB from the start. Others matriculated through but they all began elsewhere.)

vietnamcatfish said...

It's the old-timers disease. You and me matriculated at some bbq restaurant somewhere in Baton Rouge. 1977 maybe. I remember we imbibed a few potent potables and became quite tipsy. I do recall sharing a kindred spirit with you. It was to ring true, as we're still communicating today.

The bash I went to was aptly entitled: "the outstanding asst. mgrs. of the company." Jerald was there; Warriner; Roy Smith. Can't recall the others. About 20 of us. Phil Listen had come to DEK ( H.W. ) on a visit. I was on my game that day, and he was impressed.

He asked Wayne if he was sending me to the class. He said, "No." But Phil intervened and persuaded him to send me. At the time my former mentor did not hold me in high esteem.

Bill opened the meeting by saying: "I know I won't see a yawn here today, because you're all excited about being here." He was a take charge, make things happen kind of guy. He was dynamic!

Maybe it wasn't a bbq place we went to. Seafood, perhaps? But we imbibed. That's for sure.