Sharing Success

The Value of Time Urgency

From time to time, I enjoy rereading Uncle Dino’s comments in past issues of La Trattoria because good business strategy is timeless.

Recently, I reread Dino’s column on “The Value of Time Urgency.” In it, Dino explains how valuable it is to encourage a mindset of “Time Urgency” among your employees to treat time (especially your customers’ time) as being more precious than money.

If you think about it, time, not money, is our most limited business resource. Most restaurants, for example, face a variety of time related limitations. Patrons have limited lunch breaks, dining room seating is limited, kitchens have a maximum capacity, etc.

Because businesses face time related constraints, their ability to maintain high service levels, satisfy customers, and maximize sales (three important aspects of operating profitably) during PEAK demand will depend on how well their teams can operate “time urgently.”

Ironically, strong time urgency also helps employees achieve consistently high service and customer satisfaction during times of reduced customer demand. (Customers still expect prompt service, whether or not the rest of the dining room is busy. This is especially true when the restaurant is not filled.)

Some people confuse “time urgency” with “rushing around.” There is a huge difference. A popular John Wooden quote “Be quick, but don’t hurry!” is applicable. That is because rushing leads to mistakes … which disappoint customers and take even more time to fix when you can least afford it. Rather than “saving time,” time urgency focuses on “doing it right the first time” by using time more wisely.

Here are some basic ways to think about time urgency:

I. Speed is a competitive advantage.

Small businesses can react more quickly than large ones. So are you maximizing the efficiency of your staff by studying the most efficient processes and then training their adoption?

It is a good idea to visit other restaurants known for being fast and efficient and analyze their technique. What are they doing more efficiently than you? What are you doing more efficiently than they? Just remember that top quality food remains your key success factor. (Never trade food quality for increased speed.)

II. A lost sale is lost forever.

Assuming your variable costs were 35%, every lost dollar of sales because you could not meet peak demand costs you 65¢ out of pocket and is lost forever because time is irreplaceable!

So when customer demand surges, is a maxed out kitchen slowing down table turns? If so, what can you do to speed up kitchen efficiency without diminishing food quality? The same goes for order taking efficiency/table delivery efficiency/table bussing efficiency, etc.

III. Something not worth doing, isn’t worth doing well!

The old adage is, “Something worth doing is worth doing well.” That’s true. What about the reverse? Have you examined all parts of your service for relevancy to your customers? Is your staff doing some things “because we always have” rather than because it contributes to customer satisfaction and/or efficiency?

In other words, to operate at high food quality levels, high service levels, and at high efficiency levels, do you constantly reevaluate what your staff is doing (and how well)?!

IV. The customer’s time is worth more than ours.

Perhaps the most important principle of a time urgency mindset is embracing the value of the customer’s time. Operational efficiency not only enables you to serve more customers, it allows you to serve individual customers promptly! We live in a time urgent society where restaurant promptness is valued. Do not confuse prompt with fast! If they wanted fast, they would have gone to McDonald’s!

So how is your “promptness” rating with customers? Are there ways to reduce their actual waiting time? If not, are there ways to reduce their perceived waiting time? (Does it make sense to periodically circulate a tray of bite sized finger food among waiting customers?)

Developing a sense of time urgency in your business without sacrificing quality isn’t easy. Wishing won’t make it so! However, as Uncle Dino pointed out in his original column, operating time urgently is a rewarding and satisfying way of doing business!