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Mike Micklewright

Six Sigma

Restaurant 5S

Inefficiency is a dish best served not at all

Published: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 09:38

You and your spouse go out to dinner to your favorite restaurant, on a “date” no less, to celebrate a big anniversary. You have been looking forward to this evening all week, and after a long, hard day at work, you’re famished and excited to eat your favorite meal. As you order dinner, the waiter interrupts. With a sad face and a tilt of the head, he says, “I’m so sorry... we just ran out of that dish.” Arggghhhhh!

I’ve had the good fortune of applying 5S to many restaurants, banquet halls, and bars during the last few years, and yes, of course it has resulted in higher quality and productivity, more space, and higher levels of safety and customer satisfaction. As for the restaurant workers, they love it!

Although it is well accepted and understood that 5S applies to the manufacturing world, it should stand to reason that 5S applies equally as well to the world of restaurants. After all, cooks and chefs are manufacturers of beautiful, edible dishes that we all enjoy. Furthermore, reducing lead time is key to a successful operation, both from the standpoint of achieving customer satisfaction (for there is nothing worse than waiting an excessive amount of time for your food when you’re famished) and ensuring high profitability by turning over tables rapidly and minimizing customer wait time.

Everything, from ingredients to subassembled entrees and side dishes, from plates to utensils, from cleaning solutions to tablecloths, from candles to liquor, from ice to glasses, from pots to pans, and from spices to herbs, must be properly set in order, in the right amount without excess, in the right location, and at the right time, in order to both satisfy customers and increase profits.

5S is applied in a restaurant the same way it would be applied in any manufacturing location. Each and every restaurant worker’s area should be subject to 5S, whether it is the hostess’s desk, the chef’s kitchen and cooler, the bartender’s bar, the dishwasher’s cleaning area, the food preparer’s work bench, the waitress’s floor, the dry-goods storage areas, or the busboy’s nook. They are all applicable.

It is recommended to start in one of the above areas and go through the entire 5S process (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain) with a cross-functional team (chef, waitress, busboy, dishwasher, hostess, bartender) for that one area. The entire 5S process should be done when the restaurant is closed and in a short period of time (less than one week). After the fifth S is completed and a full sustainability process is in place, it is important to teach each restaurant worker about how that one chosen area will be sustained, and explain each person’s responsibility for doing so. Then, the responsible people must sustain the gains in the chosen area for at least a few weeks, prove that the system of sustainability works, and then move on to the next area with a cross-functional team once again.

If the restaurant is part of a chain (or is anticipated to be), and it is also anticipated that the process will be rolled out to all of the restaurants, it is recommended that the overall 5S process is started with the fourth Sstandardize. It is wise to determine first what will be standardized in each restaurant at a high level. This “global” standardization could address such things as reorder points; minimum and maximum quantities of ingredients and food; floor markings; colors; product labeling; product quality; shelf labeling; cleanliness standards (floor, ovens, prep areas, cooler, tables, utensils, and dishes); and sustainability audits, responsibilities, and schedules.

Upon completion of this high-level standardization effort, the team can then begin the process with sort, per the normal practice.

Bon appétit!

This article discusses topics covered at greater length in a new streaming-video training series, “5S Done Right” by the author and 360 Performance Circle.


About The Author

Mike Micklewright’s picture

Mike Micklewright

Mike Micklewright has been teaching and facilitating quality and lean principles worldwide for more than 25 years. He specializes in creating lean and continuous improvement cultures, and has implemented continuous improvement systems and facilitated kaizen/Six Sigma events in hundreds of organizations in the aerospace, automotive, entertainment, manufacturing, food, healthcare, and warehousing industries. Micklewright is the U.S. director and senior consultant for Kaizen Institute. He has an engineering degree from the University of Illinois, and he is ASQ-certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt, quality auditor, quality engineer, manager of quality/operational excellence, and supply chain analyst.

Micklewright hosts a video training series by Kaizen Institute on integrating lean and quality management systems in order to reduce waste.


Restaurant 5S

Hello, Mike.  After retiring from manufacturing I am starting my lean consulting business. I would greatlky appreciate it if you could share a case study of applying any lean tools to a restaurant.  I am familiar with all the tools but have never applied them to a restaurant.  Thanks for your help.  Steve