You know, sometimes business secrets don’t require much effort to find. The fruits of dozens of locations, millions of dollars in training development, and years of experience can focus on a single experience that’s presented right in front of you. And you are permitted to take notes.
If you are operating a restaurant, you should visit P F Changs as a customer. Yeah, the food is very good and tasted authentic, and the decor is impressive, but pay attention to the serving system. It’s a step beyond steakhouses and Italian restaurants. These places always seem to be just barely getting the food out. PF Changs seems to be operating well under capacity, even when the place is packed.
- Observe the order taking process, the sequence between events, the way the meals are delivered, the way sauces are lined up, the way plates are cleared.
- The place was packed, but our food arrived in minutes.
- Notice little things like how the glasses are not removed during refills, new ones are delivered.
- The guy delivering food was tall and fit, and held the tray of entrees above his head so other staff could walk beneath him minimizing the chances of spillage and keeping the flow moving.
- There’s nothing theatrical about it – it is just very, very efficient.
- Near the end, they ask you if you’d like boxes (not the other way around) and don’t toss styrofoam on the table. They come with a small table and put your food into take-home boxes packed into a neat bag, all branded with PF Changs.
These are the little things (tiny really) that make this place remarkable, and it doesn’t take that much staff time – just attentiveness and training. We asked for nothing – it was all provided before we thought to ask, but just when it was needed.The training became especially apparent during a small plate snafu. We ordered two appetizers, and the waiter cleared our appetizer plates before the second arrived, placing our entree plates on the table. There was clearly friction. System disruption. A screw up. I saw it in our waitresses face. They decided to not disrupt our dinner and let us continue without exchanging plates again. But I’m guessing a scolding was given behind the kitchen doors.
My wife and I are very tolerant of the wide variations of service because in the past this is just a part of finding the best ethnic foods, but the same is not true of most of the population. Many will drive past dozens of empty mom and pop Chinese restaurants to visit PF Changs for the consistent experience. You can take business associates or a date there without worrying.
A dozens of chains have shown us, it’s not necessarily the food that matters, it’s the rest of the experience that can bring success. Here, they have both. Jackpot.
You don’t have to copy their system, but you need a system, with rewards and consequences for the staff.