Quality eLine Newsletter
May 2004
Vol. 6, No. 5

No fish tale here: Restaurant improves service with CHARTrunner

Customers at Studied’s Catfish and Seafood Restaurants in Houston can’t complain about cold meals or the time it takes to be served, thanks to a focus on quality improvement, with control charts created in CHARTrunner from PQ Systems.

That was not always the case, says Paul Bailey, owner of the three Texas restaurants. At one point, customers on busy Friday or Saturday evenings were waiting up to 35 to 45 minutes for service, he says. By the time they got their food, it was often no longer hot. Bailey decided to do something about the problem, and turned to CHARTrunner for solutions.

Wait and kitchen staff began to collect data from an automated point-of-sale system that records the time an order is taken as well as when it is served, and indeed they found extended wait time, particularly toward the end of weekend evening service. Bailey himself keeps tab on customer reactions by “touching tables”—walking around and talking to diners. He saw for himself the frustration of waiting for food and then finding it cold. “We decided we’d work on it real hard,” Bailey says.

That hard work has paid off. By collecting and analyzing data, studying special causes of variation, and making appropriate improvements, the restaurant was able to reduce wait time from an average of 17 or 18 minutes to 8 minutes.

Customers have commented on the dramatic improvement, Bailey says. The food is hot and the service is fast. One long-time customer says he “can’t believe” the change. “I used to be able to smoke two or three cigarettes before my order arrived,” he said, “and now it’s only one.” In the kitchen, orders that are complete are tagged electronically; if they are not served within 8 minutes, a blue light comes on. If the time becomes 15 minutes, a red light flashes. These signals keep those in the kitchen as well as the wait staff keenly aware of their orders.

By speeding up the service, the restaurant not only makes customers happier, but in fact improves business by increasing the time to “turn tables,” or seat another set of customers after one group has finished. “People love the food,” Bailey says, so business is brisk at all three restaurants.

Sudie’s collects data on more than wait time, Bailey says. He uses CHARTrunner to examine costs, labor statistics, and other financial data. This is consistent with his own background as a stretegic planning specialist and quality consultant for a large corporation. After the company downsized, Bailey bought his first Sudie’s restaurant in Houston. Since then, he and his wife Julie have expanded to sites south and north of the city, adding seafood to the famous catfish staple of the first restaurant. Two Bailey sons, a daughter, and daughter-in-law help run the expanded business. Paul, Julie, and Jennifer Bailey recently attended a PQ Systems Easy SPC Charting seminar in Houston, to continue to expand their understanding of data-driven decision making.

Bailey himself spends a great deal of his time traveling from one of the restaurants to another, monitoring processes and evaluating data. If he could reduce this travel time to the extent that he’s decreased customer wait time, it would be just fine with him. He’d have even more time to touch tables and talk to his customers the way he loves to do.

The upgrade to the new CHARTrunner release is free for customers who hold current maintenance plans. To purchase a maintenance plan for your license of CHARTrunner, call 800-777-3020. To download a free trial copy of the new CHARTrunner release, go to http://www.pqsystems.com/products/SPC/CHARTrunner/CHARTrunnerTrialForm.php


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