2009 October: A Pizza My Mind

I’m a big believer in measuring how much time it takes to complete almost every task in the restaurant. If you determine how long a task takes, then you can measure it and often improve the elapsed time to accomplish the task.

My POS system had a built-in timer. When the phone was answered the timer started. My counter people averaged 48 seconds to take an order. My personal average time was 91 seconds. My average in oven times was 70 seconds. One of the fastest pizza makers I ever trained was Mark Hicks: he could toss, dock, sauce and cheese a 14-inch and have it in the oven in 23 seconds. My average to the- door time for deliveries was 27 minutes. It took two people to cut, weigh and roll dough balls, then tray them and send them to refrigeration in 13 minutes.

Knowing how much time it takes to complete a task is important. You have a goal to strive for. In my shop, new hires were taught all of the shortcuts so they could keep up with the old timers. This type of operation has a high sense of urgency. During slow times, the crew doesn’t back off or slack. When we got slammed, no one got nervous — because we were used to speed.

I learned how to improve my times by infi ltrating one of the country’s fastest delivery companies. They were putting the hurt on my bottom line because they advertised they would deliver the pizza in 30 minutes — or it was free. After reorganizing my kitchen fl ow and pre-tossing and cheesing skins in anticipation of the rush, I dramatically lowered my average times. We worked out all of the wrinkles and struck back. 29 minutes to your door or it’s free became my offer. Within a week, my delivery business increased 40 percent. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun.

Today’s consumers are accustomed to and expect fast service. We have become a nation of consumers that insist on instant gratification. Think dial-up or high speed Internet. Drive thrus at burger places. One-hour dry cleaning and film processing. The list goes on and on. Customers crave speed and get annoyed when they are forced to wait.

You as a manager or owner need to balance the speed of producing the food, but not at the expense of excellent customer service. Above all, the guest is king. By creating a high gear crew you will have additional time to pay attention to your customers. ?

Big Dave Ostrander owned a highly successful independent pizzeria before becoming a consultant, speaker and internationally sought-after trainer. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today and leads seminars on operational topics for the family of Pizza Expo tradeshows.

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