Sunday, June 21, 2009

Is Fast Food LEAN? Wendy's vs McDonald's

The topic I am exploring with a current operations management class is quality and service at fast food restaurants. How is good service defined?

My class is in process of gathering data between Wendy's and McDonald's on the order process time. This is a good exercise to illustrate how the DMAIC process might work. If we recall M is for MEASURE. If we can understand how to measure things then we can improve them. As for the service time, it seems to vary pretty widely at this point and we have brainstormed a number of factors that affect the service time.

  • Drive Thru vs Inside Order
  • Size of Order - Large vs Small
  • Staffing Level - Over vs Under
  • Time of Day - Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
  • Location - City and State
  • Food Preparation Processes - Process Flow
  • Variety of Menu Options - High Number of options increases complexity.
  • Training level of employees.

Even though the fast food franchises probably strive for consistency in the process their actually delivery times for your order varies widely, this impacts customer satisfaction.
Other items that have been mentioned about customer satisfaction in this industry include:
  • Accuracy of the order - did I get what I ordered
  • Wait time for tables.
I don't know if either Wendy's or McDonald's formally use LEAN processes in their operation but they do have some elements in place. Usually equipment is arranged for best process flow and tools and supplies placed at point of use. McDonald's uses standardization to the maximum to minimize taste variation between franchises. French Fries in Seattle taste the same as French Fries in Tampa and that is because of standard work procedures and processes. Standardization of work is a key element in lean manufacturing.
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