Guest Column | December 5, 2018

How To Analyze Processes

By Daniel Steyskal, Trapezoid Business Services

Analyze Open Tickets

Effective marketing can fill your establishment, but poor operations will keep you from capturing these potential sales. While a line out the door sounds like a good situation, this attention is worthless if the quality of service suffers or, worse, these clients walk out before being served. It’s pointless to go back to the buffet before your plate is clean, so you need to improve operations to meet an influx of customers.

Review Ticket Times And Question Anomalies Both At The Low End And The High End

In statistics, outliers are the most interesting points of data. When a ticket takes too long or comes out unusually fast, something is going on. One may think lighting fast tickets are great, but when a process takes a fraction of the time it normally does, corners were cut somewhere. Obviously long tickets times are also a problem, but the reasons can vary. Beyond faulty equipment, poor training, or simply not enough factors of production, kitchen staff may just have an impossible task with menu items that are way too varied or inappropriate for the venue.

Ticket times are unique to hospitality, but retail needs to consider analogous measures of how quickly customers are served. Customers served too quickly did not get the full retail experience and were not up-sold. Customers who wait too long, if they even waited to purchase the product, will be incentivized to shop online or with a competitor. If your business works with quotes, do not make customers wait.

Adjust Processes Or Outright Cut Products That Bottleneck Processes

After learning where problems occur, make changes to limit or outright eliminate their impact. If a product really gums up the works, eliminate it unless this is a core part of your business.

A pizza client had a popular salad where customers would pick 10 items to mix, but it was a nightmare to enter in the POS and way too many resources were needed in the kitchen. This made the core product suffer, so this client had to decide if they were a salad bar or a pizza place. They chose the latter, replaced the “pick a mix” with five signature salads (recipes made from the most popular items mixed) and restored reasonable ticket times and service.

A local retail client had a variety of products to serve a diverse customer base, but they were spread around the store so, to purchase complementary goods, one had to walk through the entire place. This annoyed customers and frustrated staff, but combining complementary goods to sections allowed salespeople to better assist customers who could then shop more efficiently. And, as a bonus, more were open to upselling, especially to good they normally wouldn’t buy.

One a personal note, I used to provide CCTV services but quoting such systems is very time intensive, adding an extra couple days if not more than a week onto my quotes and I was losing business. As this was not a core part of my business, cutting that service was easy and I could then produce a quote in hours.

Look At Average Ticket Time According To Staff

Sometimes it’s not business structure or the tools, but the employees who are affecting efficient operation. Whether due to poor training or a poor attitude, it has to be addressed. In addition to tracking ticket times by product, one must see how they change according to different staff.

A good manager should know and address the problem, but smaller businesses may not have someone in this position. When one finds an employee is causing unnecessary delay, start by making sure they are adequately trained; meaning they can demonstrate the process, then teach it to another person. One exercise I like to confirm skills is to write out the exact steps of doing something. Try it — write out the exact steps to core and cut a bell pepper or fold a shirt for display. While time intensive, an employee who can do this is adequately trained for the process.

Without a skill gap, there may be a problem in working conditions or attitude. Observe the employee, preferably on your CCTV, and see if there are excessive breaks caused by a lack of ventilation, inadequate footwear or floor cushioning, or poor work ethic. There may be other staff that distract, bully, or harass that employee. There may also be substance abuse problems, especially if work product is erratic thorough a shift. While addiction and inappropriate behavior should not be tolerated, be sure to take the time to really investigate what is going on as training new staff is more expensive than fixing small issues.

Look To Competitors For Best Practices And Possible Opportunities To Innovate

Sometimes the solution is not clear or previous attempts did nothing or made things work. There is a reason why bar owners never drink at their own bars. First, it’s not appropriate to drink at work and owners are always at work. But also to see what competitors are doing, both right and wrong. Adopting good practice is always a good idea but observing when things are done wrong allows one to more critically analyze their own business to identify and correct operational issues. Additionally, it lets you ask why do they serve or decline to serve this product? It could be that it doesn’t fit the brand identity, or the market just isn’t there for it.

If one cannot effectively serve their customers, no degree of marketing can save a business. Effective marketing is expensive, so before getting more bodies through the door make sure you can actually serve them. Unfortunately, a business may be structurally unable to serve enough customers to generate sufficient revenue to survive, but sometimes, small changes to processes, employees, or scope of services can be a positive change.

About The Author

Trapezoid Business Services is solely owned and operated by Daniel Steyskal. Daniel has been a POS provider and business solutions consultant since 2008 working with small to midsized businesses and national franchises. When he's not making the impossible possible for his clients, Daniel enjoys cooking, gaming, and volunteering in his community. Find out more at