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From Port to Plate: How Legal Sea Foods Is Improving Through Lean

by Lean Leaper
August 6, 2018

From Port to Plate: How Legal Sea Foods Is Improving Through Lean

by Lean Leaper
August 6, 2018 | Comments (1)

Legal Sea Foods is working with LEI to help launch a movement to change everything about the way traditional restaurants work. Legal, a family business founded in 1950, with more than 30 locations, has been working with LEI for the past four years to change the way restaurants work. In everything from greeting and seating guests to re-thinking how they organize their walk-in coolers and schedule shifts, lean is having a huge impact on everything it does.

In this recent podcast, Executive Chef Rich Vellante and LEI Senior Coach Josh Howell discuss some of the challenges that Legal has addressed using the ingredients of lean. While few restaurants today apply lean explicitly, the food industry represents a huge opportunity for improvement. Many of the lessons learned at Legal have broader relevance for other restaurants and food purveyors, as these two discuss.

For example, the Legal Crossing restaurant is located across the street from the Boston Opera House, which creates a surge of pre-theater guests all wanting their food at roughly the same time. Vallente says through an in-depth kaizen event, they were able to break down the problem. “We realized that there is a takt, there are cycle times, there are lead times and we have to really understand what they are. So what  is the sequence, who is involved in that sequence,” he says, adding, “you literally can figure out how often people come in and how long they stay and how quickly you have to seat them.” Such an outlook enabled the time to “come up with a model of what to measure, what you can control, and what you can’t control.”

This work helped them explore the meaning of what they observed, and to come up with “aha moments” about whether hosts should seat every customer and which servers should be assigned to guests. Seeing the work in careful detail was eye-opening, says Rich. The team realized that “We have to rethink this legacy model of how we approach this.”

Subsequent experiments helped them rethink who should seat guests, how servers should be assigned to tables, and other small improvements that boosted overall performance. Vallente says that even the staunchest resisters of change now concede that the feeling of being overwhelmed has leveled off. And, after two years of a 4.1 rating from Open Table, Legal Crossing has boosted its score over the most recent period to 4.4.

For more on this story, check out the WLEI Podcast

Richard Vellante, Legal Sea Foods' Executive Chef will be giving a free presentation at LEI headquarters this August 21, 2018. Drinks and snacks will be provided. To register please go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/why-yes-chef-is-no-longer-the-answer-a-new-view-on-restaurant-ops-tickets-48432413653


The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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Mark Graban August 06, 2018
1 Person AGREES with this comment

I'm impressed that they would do what it takes to meet pre-theater customer needs (that bulk arrival of customers) instead of just saying "it can't be done."

That detailed level of process design... starting with customer needs and being driven to figure it out... we need more of that in healthcare. 

"The way we've always done it" or "It can't be done better" are dangerous traps for any organization.

Thanks for sharing the story.

I'd, of course, love to see a Run Chart of their Yelp score over time with multiple data points instead of just a two-data point comparison ;-)

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