Friday, May 8, 2009

Lee's Got Me Waiting...

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I love Lee’s Sandwiches and have been a fan for many years. I often visit the Rosemead location, this is a fairly new building with an ice cream counter, steam table for hot items, baked goods, etc. Lee’s Sandwiches is a multi-unit quick service company that specializes in Vietnamese sandwiches that bakes fresh baguettes and makes great sandwiches, in addition to other items. They have over 35 locations in 4 states.

I usually go in early morning or late afternoon when the lines are short. This week, I went during lunch and ended up in a very long line, about 8 people. As I’m watching the cashier walk away from the register with each customer, I realized that the store layout is not set-up efficiently. One of the keys to retail success for sandwich places is to first have the customer order and collect payment first and then make the sandwich.

Lee’s does this, but where they lack the efficiency is after a customer orders they pass by the ice cream counter and steam table. If they want something else, it’s like watching salmon is swim up-stream as they come back to the register. The line should have started at the ice cream counter and pass through the steam table, customers would have seen something in these cases before they order. The cashier would stop what they’re doing and go over the other cases. Shouldn’t the cashier be stationed at the register just ringing up orders?

I’m standing in line and watching the cashier run all over the store and the line is getting longer. I guess the company is OK with the lines, as the manager was busy moving the fresh baguettes around on the racks. I don’t understand why the manager didn’t jump on a register and get the line moving. If I was at the end of the 15 person line, I would have left, but I was the next customer. If the layout was better designed, the store would run better with less labor. Even successful businesses, like Lee’s, sometimes forget about having a system and keeping things simple. This is why consultants like me are so valuable in setting up the operations, rather than after it’s built.

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