Business process management – and don’t order the chef’s special

I have really enjoyed teaching my current undergraduate class at Sheffield Hallam University business school.   They are smart, eager to learn, and have managed to keep me on my toes.   

Not least when we analysed my son’s 8th birthday meal in one of our seminars.   The resteraunt was high in the French Alps in Val Thorens during our annual family skiing holiday, and clearly the place to eat.  Despite getting there very early the place was soon full to capacity – and the waiters were stretched to their limits.  They literally ran down the aisles with plates of food or trays of drink held over their heads. 

They were clearly on some sort of profit sharing scheme and though considerably understaffed for the volume of diners – they were working at maximum throughput – running with food,  slowing down to a walk to take orders then continuing their food trot…  and always with a cheeky smile or comment as they shot past.     There were breakages.  About one every 5 minutes.  Whole meals or trays of drinks going all over the floor.   It kept my children very amused as we waited (what i estimate to be ) about ten minutes longer than we probably should have for our meal to be served.

Clearly the waiters – as good as they were – were understaffed and overstretched for the volumes of people that they were looking after.  But they were coping – just – and I estimated that they were about 7 people light.  5 staff present instead of an estimated 12 that were needed.  The bulk of the customers were holiday makers and not likely to return in the same season anyway. 

So the question is – was this lean process management at its best, or were they too thin and having to many accidents to maintain a viable business?    To any of you that actually read this (i expect you are all in the pub having that post group presentations pint….) – you have been a pleasure to teach. Thanks for making it so much fun – and i wish you all the very best in wherever life takes you next.

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