Front of the House
I don’t know much about restaurants. The restaurant that I worked at as a teenager didn’t really have much of a back of the house or much of a front of the house. I am not sure that there really was a house…
But the reality is that I learned a lot of the business basics there. I learned about customer service, food cost, labor cost and basic bookkeeping. I also learned how to make a pretty good tuna melt too.
I definitely learned about the importance of presentation. How to make an ice cream look bigger, how to make a sundae look like it was overflowing. There was an art to it, but there was also a lot of dumbing it down to make it so every trained employee could make it look good.
I also learned about information flow, batches, work sequencing, inventory management, and sadly I also learned about employee theft. Even though I made a fair bit of money, I learned a fair bit about the basics of business.
The information systems were primitive. The staff schedules were kept manually, the inventory was done manually as was the ordering. The cash in the register was reconciled manually at the end of the day.
As I think back on it, I am not sure where information systems would have really helped the business. Could things been done faster? Sure, I guess. Could some things have been tracked more accurately? Sure, but would it have made a difference? I really don’t know.
The manual information conveyed the information well. Was it perfect? Far from it…Good thing food allergies weren’t quite as a widespread back then.
The information was visible. We knew what was popular because we knew what we needed. We could see our backlogs, we could see our queues, and we could see almost everything in plain view. We knew who showed up. We knew who did high quality work and who didn’t.
Sure it was a small simple business, but there were analog systems in place that allowed the business to run.,. The ultimate downfall of the business had more to do with its brand, quality of its products and changing customer preferences.
Would being a more digital business have made a difference? It is possible that trends would have been spotted sooner, but the reality is that the business model was limited more by its mindset than by its automation of business processes and information.