The Curious Case of the Persian Zucchini Frittata

“This is soooooo good!”

You turn your head to see the woman at the table across the way who seems to be gushing over her meal. She continues telling the guy she’s with,

“Here. You have to try some. This is the best Zucchini Frittata I’ve ever had.”

The guy takes a bite.

“Mmm. That IS tasty. Great texture and flavor.”

The woman’s glance catches you watching them in their conversation, so you quickly ask, “Is that the Persian Zucchini Frittata you’re talking about?”

“Yes, I’m so happy with it. Sorry if we were being too loud.”

“Oh no, that’s exactly what I ordered, so my ears perked up when I heard it mentioned. Now I’m really looking forward to it if it’s so good.”

You turn back to your table and start to wonder where your Persian Zucchini Frittata is. It’s already been 15 minutes since you ordered.

Five more minutes pass, then you hear commotion on the other side of the restaurant. You look over to see the waiter at a table of diners.

“I’m so sorry, Sir. Can you tell me what’s wrong?”

“It’s this Persian Zucchini Frittata. It’s not even warm on the inside, and it’s all mushy. Look, I’m not making it up–take a bite and tell me if I’m wrong.”

“Sir, I’m so sorry. I will take this right now and bring you a new dish.”

“Well, I don’t want another Persian Zucchini Frittata if it’s going to taste like that! I really want to like your vegan dishes. It’s the whole reason I try to eat at places where ‘no animals were harmed in the making of’!”

You’re a little amused by the drama you’re witnessing, but also somewhat dismayed and confused. Slight worry creeps in as you think about your Persian Zucchini Frittata on its way. Which by the way, surely should have been here by now. It’s going on nearly 30 minutes now.

After nearly 10 more minutes and no meal, you are now upset. Just as you get ready to go find your waiter, a gentleman approaches with a friendly smile.

“And how is everything for you this evening? I’m Ferdinand, the owner of the restaurant.”

“Well, actually, it’s not going so great. I’ve been waiting here, trying to be patient, but it has been far too long. I’m seeing other tables who ordered long after we did who have already got their food. I’m feeling annoyed and, well, not happy at all with my experience here. I was really looking forward to my meal as I overheard people who seem to love the Persian Zucchini Frittata, which is what I ordered. But then, curiously enough, someone at a different table was complaining about theirs.”

“Oh my. Thank you for being honest with me. I will go check on your order. I do apologize. I’ll be right back.”

The owner does return immediately.

“Your Zucchini Frittata will be out in just a minute. Again, I do apologize for the delay. I hope you will forgive us.”

“Well, I just hope I get the good one that she got and not the bad one that he got,” you say, then smile with the most supportive smile you can muster given your annoyance. After all, you are feeling kind of sorry for the restaurant owner now.

The owner let’s out a sigh of resignation and, with an ‘I’m confiding in you’ tone, explains, “Ahh. Yes. Since you bring it up…the thing is I have 3 chef’s working for me. And I seem to be getting different results from all three, despite the fact that they are all working just as hard. See, it’s very important to me–in fact, that’s all that matters–is that my customers have a great dining experience, central to that being the food. My goal is that they love the food. The ultimate result I’m after is happy customers. Because, naturally, if you leave here happy, you’ll likely return. And you’ll tell others to come.”

Since your food still isn’t here, you engage the conversation:

“Sure, that makes sense. You can gauge how your restaurant is doing by learning how happy or not us diners are. But now you have me curious. How do you know that all 3 chefs are working hard–that they’re all putting in equal effort?”

“Our ticket system. The waiters write up the meal orders on a ticket, and clip them up in the queue. Each chef claims tickets as fast as he can, preparing a new dish for each ticket. We count total tickets claimed, so I know that over the past month each chef has taken about the same number of tickets.”

“And so the number of tickets taken by a chef is how you measure how hard he is working, is that right?”

“Exactly.”

“Is there any other metric you look at to give you a sense for how fast or how well they are preparing the dishes?”

“No. I try to keep things simple. I track their performance by effort–number of tickets claimed, then I measure the results–how happy my diners are with their meal. Because, like I said, that’s really all I care about.”

“Well, it might not be my place to say and I’m no restaurant expert, but hearing you talk has given me some ideas. You mind if I share them?”

“Of course. I welcome any advice you might have.”

“What I might do if I were in your shoes is start looking at what your chefs are doing between the time they claim an order ticket all the way up to when a diner becomes happy or unhappy. I imagine at least one of the 3 is doing a superb job given I just witnessed a stellar outcome with that lady over there, delighted with her Persian Zucchini Frittata. So I’d find out which chef made that one, then watch everything he does in the kitchen when he makes his next Persian Zucchini Frittata. Assuming he is consistent, his critical and essential behaviors in preparing dishes would become the standard by which I would start measuring all chefs. I wouldn’t track everything because you do want to keep it simple. But identify those pivotal activities that are absolutely required to get the outcome of a happy customer.  –Ah, there’s my meal now. I hope that helps.”

“Thank you. I shall think on all you’ve said. Because you were so generous with your advice and because you had to wait so long, I would like to give you a free dinner next time you come. Please, friend, return in a couple weeks and your meal will be on the house!”

“Thank you. Maybe I will.” You eat your Persian Zucchini Frittata and realize you don’t have quite the level of reaction that she did. Yours is just so-so.

A few weeks pass and you find yourself back at Ferdinand’s restaurant to claim the free dinner he offered.

As you eat, you spot Ferdinand mingling among the tables, asking his customers about their meals. You notice Ferdinand seems to have more bounce in his step, and a permanent smile affixed to his face. In fact, it appears smiles abound throughout the entire restaurant.

Soon Ferdinand makes his way to your table.

“Friend! I am so glad you returned! Your meal is gratis. You will not pay a thing for it. In fact, –Dominic! Bring some wine for our friend. And make sure he gets to choose a dessert at no charge!  I must tell you what happened after I did what you said; after I started measuring what my chefs did in between taking order tickets and my customers reactions to the food.

“I discovered that one of my chefs was spending most of his time and effort on things that were not contributing to speedy, high volume creation of his dishes, even though he was busy and taking the same amount of meal tickets as the others. Things like polishing the china, sharpening knives. It was likely due to him that your food took so long the last time your were here.

“Our other chef who was making a lot of dishes quickly–she was actually highly productive–well, she didn’t quite have the skill and knowledge of our top chef. She wasn’t brazing the frittata long enough or giving it time to cool before adding the persian sauce. And some other subtle details. So she wasn’t very proficient. In short, we’re now tracking all those key food-making behaviors which truly let us measure the productivity of our chefs, as well as their proficiency, and…well…just look at us!

“I actually had to hire a fourth chef because, well, as you can see, we are filled to capacity. We are like this every night. I am already thinking about opening another location!

“By the way, how is your food? I see you are eating the Persian Zucchini Frittata again.”

It hadn’t taken any time at all to realize this Persian Zucchini Frittata is deliciously ten times better than the one you had before.

“Spectacular, Ferdinand. Nothing short of spectacular.”

– – – – –

While it might be ridiculously fanciful to believe that a restaurant is so unaware as to not pay attention to how its chefs are making the food (although if you consider what Gordon Ramsay has seen, it might not be too far off), this kind of situation is all too common in Sales. It’s the ‘black hole Conundrum’ in sales. Griffin Hill has solved it.

Griffin Hill has done for salespeople what Ferdinand did for his chefs.