I ordered some take-out the other day from a local, but popular, Mexican Restaurant called Los Hermanos Mexican Restaurant. Their food is decent, but their service is a mess.
I called-in an order of two meals and some chips. The lady who took my order was nice and she said I could come and pick up my order in 30 minutes. When I arrived at Los Hermanos Mexican Restaurant in Lindon, Utah and Los Hermanos Mexican Restaurant in Provo, Utah, that’s when all the service defects were exposed. Below is a process map that I quickly built to familiarize you with the take-out process:
The take-out person was a mess; granted, they were busy, but her desk was full of orders, not organized in any meaningful way. When I arrived at the restaurant, I approached the take-out person’s area: she was busy sorting through her papers, while 3 customers, including me, waited on her; all the while, she provided us with zero feedback, no acknowledgement that we were even there waiting, and talked rudely to her co-workers. I politely got her attention and asked her to help the lady in front of me. The take-out person did.
As she stumbled through her piles of paper-based orders, I thought that a good dose of 5S would help her a lot. One of the key principles in queueing theory is that we must know the amount, the locations, and the status of our work-in-process (things-in-process). We need to have this data in order to manage flow. This lady clearly didn’t have this principle down. From the process map above, it’s easy to see why: it appears that there are ~3 operators who take orders, but it doesn’t appear that they are talking to each other. So, if an order is taken by Operator A, but the customer approaches Operator B for the order, Operator B will not know about it, as in my case.
When it was my turn to pick-up my order, the Operator couldn’t find my order stub. She became frustrated at her own disorganized mess and then she concluded that I probably never called-in the order. After a few minutes of discussion, another Operator found my paper stub and brought me my food. It’s predictable that when things go wrong, some businesses blame the customer for the problems. It’s too bad that this person engaged in that counter-return-customer behavior.
I paid and then I left . . . to speak with the manager of Los Hermanos Mexican Restaurant.
The manager was nice and understanding; she gave me a $10.00 gift certificate.
This experience exposed a lot of waste in the processes at Los Hermanos Mexican Restaurant. From the customer’s perspective, I consider value-added steps the order taking step, food preparation steps, and the pick-up of order steps. The other steps — especially arguing with me and the stumbling through piles of papers and chasing phantom orders — I consider waste and I’m not willing to pay for those steps with either my time or my money. Businesses need to better understand their customer-facing processes and ask themselves: if the customer knew about this step in the process, would they be willing to pay for it? If the answer is “NO”, then the business needs to eliminate that step.
Similarly, if there is complexity that the customer is not willing to pay for, then eliminate that also. But, if there is complexity that the customer is willing to pay for, then exploit that for profit.
In my case, the Operator not knowing where my order was and arguing with me that I never made the order is not only inexcusable bahavior from a merchant, but also exposes process problems that aren’t difficult to fix, but critically important to fix in order to satisfy the customer.
Again, it’s about the customer and aligning our business processes to satisfy the needs of the customer. Los Hermanos Mexican Restaurant lost a customer; I won’t be eating there again.