Guest Post: Beyond Toast Kaizen - Lean Breakfast Concepts, Circa 1937

I was in Boston this weekend with my wife and we were told the best place for breakfast was Paramount’s. As we waited in line to order food, I noticed their sign told us to “Please Order and Pay before being seated”.  They claimed not saving a table “ensures all customers will have a table when needed” and although “it may seem hard to believe, it’s been working well since 1937”. Like much in lean this seemed counterintuitive. I decided to do a few time observations while we waited in line. Fortunately, my wife puts up with my curiosity.

Customers came out of the breakfast line and cashier every 90 seconds. So, customers needed a table every 90 seconds (Takt Time). I watched several tables that were filled before we sat down and the time to eat was about 18 minutes. (This is not the type of place where you bring the paper and the server keeps filling your coffee. )

If customers were sitting down at a table every 90 seconds and it takes 18 minutes to eat, the restaurant would need 12 tables to balance the seating capacity with customer requirements (Cycle Time/Takt Time). The restaurant has 14 tables. So, the overall system Cycle Time (think "drop off rate") was less than Takt Time. I convinced myself, and my wife, why their seating policy worked.

I am confident that Paramount’s system works and that now...and in the future, we will not have to save a table. One should always be available (assuming no substantial change in Takt Time). I wonder if when they started in 1937 they fully understood why it worked. Oh well, perhaps all that really matters is that their breakfast is outstanding and customers keep returning.

John Rizzo authored this blog post. He is a fellow Lean Six Sigma implementation consultant and friend of Mark Hamel. John also enjoys a good breakfast!

There are 2 Comments

Mark Welch's picture

... A good example of Lean in the service industry.

I've got to admit I have some mixed feelings on their practice of having the customers pay first, though. Although the rationale is explained, there are some certain unspoken things at play, too. First, the pay first policy ensures that Paramount gets their money whether your meal was good, prepared properly, or not. Also, I would be willing to bet that more people than just me like to sit and talk with the people they came with and take in the atmosphere. To me as a customer, that's part of the value of the experience. What Paramount is doing by denying this is saying, "Eat your meal and get out so we can pull more people through the system and make our money." Good for Paramount - not for the customer. It also keeps Paramount from having to dedicate more space/tables for patrons. Again, good for Paramount. If as a customer these things are not of value to you, then it's no big deal. If you like being treated like a part going through their assembly line, Paramount my be a place you'd enjoy. I would imagine those of us who see value as more than just sitting and eating, Paramount may not be the place for them. Just my opinion based on the article, but it seems Paramount is defining value for their business more than they are for the customer. On the other hand, it seems they must have found a loyal following who value their experiences there, having stayed in business since 1937. It all depends upon how the customer defines value.

markrhamel's picture

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the comment. I think that you've got a great point!

If we were to look at Paramount and applied Lean Thinking's first of five steps - define value, we probably would identify that the value in the eyes of their customers is something like, "get in, get some good food and get out." They clearly have a value stream that delivers that "value."

I would only count myself in that particular market segment if I'm working/going to work or just plain in a rush. Otherwise, I'm probably not going to Paramount. Instead, I would go to a different venue with a different value proposition and hopefully the value stream to satisfy it. [If you and I were grabbing a bite and talking lean implementation, I think we'd want more than 18 minutes...]

John Rizzo, if you're reading this, what do you think?

Best regards,
Mark