Arm yourself with kitchen operations to streamline delivery
“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.” This truth is from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’. The quote is the basis for our approach to winning the battle against the enemies of our successful pizza delivery kitchen operations: long kitchen times and higher labor cost. Step into my temple and let’s prepare for battle. We will address efficiencies in kitchen space and flow, delivery systems, and delivery workstations.
Kitchen Space and Flow
Often, we accept the battlefield as it has been laid out and adapt operations around that. Instead, let us design it to fit our purposes. Just as a general cannot change the hills and the trees, you may not be able to change the walls or your oven hood. For everything we can change, what criteria shall we use? Footsteps. A properly designed kitchen space begins and ends with footsteps.
An example of this is demonstrated in a Domino’s Pizza kitchen in 1980. That kitchen design has changed very little in 40 years, and has been copied by Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Little Caesars. The order station is for carry-out and phone calls. They then turn around, place a label on a box, and place the box on a shelf for the oven tender, all within two steps of their ‘home’ position. Attached to the order station is the dough stretching table, which is attached to the makeline. The makeline is 30 inches from the oven. The oven is 30 inches from the cut table. The cut table is 30 inches from the delivery dispatch station and carry-out station. It is possible to have each crew member stay within an imaginary three-foot square on the floor.
Take these same components in your kitchen and move them or re-size them to reduce footsteps. Consider each checkpoint of your kitchen flow.
Order taking > Pizza > Oven > Cut Table > Driver Dispatch
Depending on your operation, you may have to include other stations such as fryer, sub, salad or grill. If you have dine-in, the method of delivery to the table is another consideration.
Observe your kitchen during the height of the battle. Count footsteps. This is caused me to make many changes to the kitchen design over the years, but I remember the first decision 20+ years ago. I counted 40 steps per trip, with five trips on a Friday night between 6:00 and 8:00 to restock dough. I added an upright dough refrigerator at the beginning of the line and saved 200 steps, which translated to a reduced kitchen time of two minutes. No longer did we have someone leaving their pizza making position, crossing the kitchen, and interfering with other positions.
You may have heard of the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 Rule applies to most scenarios in life. Regarding our pizzerias, it means that 80 percent of our business happens in 20 percent of the time we are open. We call this time period ‘The Rush’.
We must design our delivery systems for The Rush. Start with the phone system. The number of customers who hang up without placing an order is called the Abandon Rate. A formula was invented to calculate how many phone lines you need and how many phone operators you need based on your acceptable Abandon Rate. This formula is called the Erlang Calculator. Having a One-Number Phone Center has allowed us to measure pizza customer tolerances. Based on these tolerances, I recommend the following: Goggle Erlang Calculator and input your incoming calls per 30 minutes, average call length (ours is 131 seconds), and 80 percent of calls answered within 120 seconds. The Erlang results will tell you how many phone lines you need and how many operators to schedule. We use Erlang to schedule our operators every week.
Your POS system should also be designed for the rush. I recommend production monitors which allow you to ‘bump’ the order from one station to the next. The less printers in the kitchen, the better efficiency.
The rush should also include a design aspect on your schedule. Add a position called ‘Router’. This person puts together the orders and routes doubles: two deliveries that can go with one driver.
There are two types of delivery workstations. The first is a station with heating racks, so the pizzas are spending less time in hot bags. The driver loads the food into the hot bag when they are ready to leave.
I choose the second type. While sacrificing some dough quality, the efficiencies of time and complete/correct orders more than makes up for the potential for sogginess. With this method, here is what your delivery workstation should look like.
Ideally, two six-foot stainless steel tables with one under-shelf and one over-shelf. At the beginning of the table is the driver dispatch monitor and printer (part of your POS system). The remaining 10 feet will allow you to stage six deliveries. You will have to adjust the length based on the confines of your space. The undershelf is for hot bags. I prefer an assortment of two, three and six pizza hot bags along with some cold food/drink carrier bags. The over-shelf will have a ticket holder for your driver dispatch tickets that are waiting to be placed with food and a hot bag. Directly across from this table is a driver upright refrigerator. This can be single-door or two-door depending on your menu. Next to the driver refrigerator is another three-foot stainless steel table again with an over-shelf. This is used for assembling the refrigerated items (salads, drinks, desserts) for the deliveries, with packaging on the over-shelf. Next to this assembly table is a three foot, four-tier shelving for your car top signs. I recommend the car toppers that plug in and charge at this station, so they are lit up on the driver car with no cord needed.
OK Pizza General. You’ve prepared in your temple. It’s Friday night at 6:00. Time for battle.
DAN COLLIER is the founder of Pizza Man Dan’s in California and a speaker at International Pizza Expo.