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