The String and the Spoon (When consultants add value to the restaurant trade)

Last week, we took some friends out to a new restaurant, and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket. This seemed a little strange. When the busboy brought our water and utensils, we noticed he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket. When I looked around, I saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would have said.

A little later on, the owner visited our table as he made the rounds of his patrons.

“Why the spoons?” I asked when we’d shaken hands

“Well,” he explained, “we hired a consultant to revamp all our processes. It was a fascinating exercise! Do you know that, after several months of analysis, they concluded that the spoon is the most frequently dropped utensil. They showed us that it represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour! If we were better prepared, we could reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen to replace spoons, saving 15 man-hours per shift!”

His amazement was clear and the logic incredible. How simple! Carry the cutlery with you rather than going back to the kitchen! Yet I’d never seen this solution in any restaurant I’d visited!

During the dessert course, purely by coincidence, I dropped my spoon. The waiter immediately replaced it with his spare.

“Sir, please accept this spoon. I’ll get another the next time I go to the kitchen, thereby…” he thought hard, searching for the right word, “…enabling you to better enjoy your desserts! I trust the mango tartlet with rasberry confit is to your liking, sir?”

I was impressed – he’d obviously been prepared with a script but it still felt great – great service! I started in on my desser, smiling with delight. It tasted heavenly.

Suddenly, I noticed a string hanging out the waiter’s fly. A quick scan of the restaurant confirmed that all the waiters had simlar strings hanging from their zippers.

“Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?”I asked the waiter as he was about to leave our table. “Oh, certainly! Well done sir! Not everyone is so observant.” He beamed at my discovery then, leaning forward conspiratorially, he lowered his voice.

“We recently had some consultants come in,” he said, “they were the ones who told us about the spoons. But they also worked out out that we could save time in the restroom. By tying this string to the tip of you know what, we can pull it out without touching it and eliminate the need to wash our hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 76.39 percent!” “That’s amazing,” I said, “but after you get it out, how do you put it back?” “Well,” he whispered, “I don’t know about the others, sir, but I use the spoon.”

My spoon, piled high with the next mouthful of mango tartlet and rasberry confit froze in space just in front of my mouth.

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