Taco Mac is a southeast regional sports bar that was founded in Atlanta. It is known for (aside from its buffalo wings) an extensive beer selection, available on draft and in bottles. Although the chain has multiple locations, each coordinates with different beer distributors due to being located in multiple cities and states, and is in a different building, with different physical limitations. This means that we will have to design a system to manage both ordering and inventory for a single Taco Mac location as each location has unique needs. For the sake of this project, we will focus on the Taco Mac Metropolis location, at the intersection of 9th Street and Peachtree.
The Metropolis Location offers 140 Draft Beers and 200 bottled beers at any given time. A beer can be offered in a bottle, draft, or both. Each draft beer on the menu contains the beer name, brewery name, brewery location, beer type, percent alcohol by volume, pour size, and price. It also states the beer’s available servings as bottle, draft, or pitcher. The price is given for each available serving type. The menu also contains 3 subdivided sections, labeling some beers as “Just In,” “Going,” or “Gone”. The “Just In” are beers which have just arrived. The “Going” beers are beers which will no longer be served following depletion of current stock. The “Gone” beers are beers which were recently on the menu, but are no longer available. To reflect fast moving stock, menus are printed multiple times a week.
Beer of the Month
Taco Mac selects a beer of the month as part of a promotion deal with a brewery. Every Thursday of the month., every customer who purchases the beer of the month after 5:00 p.m. will receive a commemorative pint glass with the brewery’s logo on it. This is limited to one per customer, while supplies last.
Taco Mac’s rewards/loyalty program is referred to as Brewniversity. The customer has a card, which stores data on every unique beer type the customer has ordered at any Taco Mac location. If a customer orders the same beer twice, it goes on the list only once. As customers get more new beers on his/her list, it entitles them to rewards of various types.
Higher gravity beers are served in a tulip glass while other beers are served in a “pint” glass. The tulip glass corresponds with a pour volume of 9oz while the standard pint glass corresponds with a pour volume of 12oz. If a beer is served in a bottle, the customer should also receive the correct sized glass for the beer type. If the customer is a Brewniversity member with > 125 beers tried, a draft beer with a pour volume of 12oz is served in a Brewniversity mug and is served a 16oz pour.
We would like to be able to, through a combination of business process automation and business process re-engineering, develop a new model for selecting, ordering, and customer relationship management. A point of sale data device (a tablet running a custom web app) will be integrated into the process, allowing improved communications throughout the process and reduced redundancies. This tablet interface will handle Brewniversity member status and registration, a live updated Menu, and improved beer descriptions and recommendations, as well as placing orders.
Requirements for the Beer Ordering System
- The system shall encompass at a minimum:
- The Brewniversity Card Check
- The Brewniversity Registration (if wanted)
- The Current Brewniversity Beer’s Tried List (if wanted)
- The Menu
- Beer Recommendations (if wanted)
- Beer Selection and Ordering
- Beer Serving and Delivering
- The new system shall be faster than current process (increasing number of customers served).
- The new system shall maintain a high level of service in the ordering activity, (beer recommendations, descriptions etc. must be as good or better than current system).
- The new system shall reduce out of stock beers being ordered.
- The new system shall improve integration with Brewniversity and offer more advantages and therefore incentive to join Brewniversity rewards program.
- The new system shall reduce errors in beer ordering/serving.
- The new system shall make joining Brewniversity a faster process.
- The new system shall reduce the number of actions performed by the waiter/waitress as this is the current bottleneck.
- The new system shall offer an improved customer experience over the existing system.
- The new system shall be one that can be easily implemented to the existing restaurant.
- The new system shall be compatible with customers in a standing room only situation.
Current Process Analysis
In order to more efficiently deliver the wide selection of beer that Taco Mac is known for, we took the Business Process Automation approach in order to optimize the processes already in place at Taco Mac. We felt that the system they had in place already (printed menus with the complete selection, knowledgeable wait staff who were well-informed about the beers, promotions that encourage repeat visits) was a good strategy overall but that it could be improved to help not only the customers but the wait staff as well. A root-cause analysis approach was used to examine the process and propose improvements that could be made with the help of automation.
Currently, as outlined previously in the requirements determination, the time to complete the process is a major issue. Anything in the process which can be sped up will directly result in increased revenue. Many of Taco Mac’s locations are space limited and as a result an increased customer service rate will directly translate to more customers and more profits. The actual activities for the most part move at a reasonable speed but begin or end with handoffs of information or physical goods between the actors. Thus, the number of handoffs between actors must be minimized to improve overall speed. For instance, a customer has decided to order a beer. There is handoff time between the decision made by the customer and the waitress arriving to take the order.
Another major problem with the current process is that a customer commonly orders an out of stock beer. This is because there is a reasonable percentage of beers listed on the menu which are not actually available. A beer menu is printed daily, or every few days. Beers run out during the interim. Most of these beers are more obscure, and ordered less, but it is still likely around 5% of beer orders are for out of stock beers. The waitress doesn’t learn this until after keying in the order, which results in a loop back to the ordering phase. Thus, the root cause of these delays is an “old” and inaccurate beer menu.
The wait staff at Taco Mac is heavily taxed during peak business, and as a result, quality of service suffers. (Just look at the old process activity diagram, the swimlane for the waitress is incredibly complex!) This is indicative of the load on the waiter/waitress. The root cause of this is not necessarily understaffing but a poor job distribution. By automating a process or two, the number of interactions required per customer with the waiter/waitress will decrease. This will in turn allow the staff to better handle peak business hours with the current staff amounts.
Proposed Process Improvements
The focus of the improvements was to reduce load on the waiter/waitress and increase the speed of the process whenever possible without compromising the customer experience in any way. As a part of this analysis, we plan to automate many of the activities which previously were the responsibility of the waiter/waitress. This will be accomplished using an iPad or a similar android tablet running a custom interface. The discussion of improvements to individual activities is discussed below.
Preventing Stock Outs
We decided to implement iPad or iPad-like tablets into the beer ordering process in order to centralize and consolidate the giant selection of beers available at Taco Mac. With the iPad, the beer menu can be updated in real-time to reflect the current availability of the beers. No longer will the wait staff have to come back time and time again to inform the customer that their favorite beer is out of stock. This will not only prevent the wait staff from making multiple trips to each table (slowing down service to other customers) but it will also allow customers to get their beers quicker without the disappointment of having to order a beer again and again.
As each beer as poured (either from draft of from a bottle), it is deducted from the inventory. Each iPad is connected wirelessly to the central beer database and is updated in real time as the stock is depleted or replenished. As soon as a beer is out of stock, it will either disappear from the list or be shown as greyed out on the list. This will eliminate a major slowdown in the current process, as currently when a beer is out of stock, the entire process goes back to the ordering step. This will save the time of both the waiter/waitress and bartender.
Given the iPad system is connected to the Brewniversity system (Taco Mac’s CRM system), customers can use their Brewniversity card (or a log in) to bring up their list of beers they have tried and preferences the second they sit down. In the past this required a waitress to interface with the computer, print the list and manually bring it back. This UI will also let customers see which beers they have already had either by having a check mark next to beers already consumed or by having the beers in a different font. Each time a beer is ordered from the iPad it will automatically be added to the customer’s Brewniversity database. This would eliminate the need for long receipts and endless searching and comparing to make sure you get a new beer counted towards your total. This sounds trivial, but some customers have a beer list that is 6 feet long! Even finding a beer you haven’t already had (one that is on the menu and not on your beer list) can be time consuming for the customer.
A time consuming problem for the waitress/waiter currently is registration for the Brewniversity program. It is a major emphasis of the chain to get every customer “enrolled” in the Brewniversity program. A waiter/waitress is supposed to ask every customer to join if they aren’t already a member. In reality this does not happen, because if the customer says yes, it makes more work for the waiter! By shifting the work of keying in the information on a new customer from the waiter/waitress to the customer using the iPad interface, the negative consequences of the current process are removed for the waiter. Additionally, most customers are used to the process of filling in a form on a computer or tablet, so there shouldn’t be a large learning curve.
Reduced Order Errors
An additional benefit will be reduced order errors. While Taco Mac’s employees are already surprisingly accurate given the complexity of the system in place and the large number of beers offered, a reduction in the number of pours of the incorrect beer to almost zero could be achieved with this system. This will increase efficiency as well as reduce product waste, a major issue for restaurants.
Improved Menu Functionality
The iPad system will also allow for a vibrant user interface that will let customers search for beer by type (IPA, Lager, Stout, etc.) or brand, or even by alcohol content. They would even be able to see pictures of the bottles of the beer or see how dark or light they look when poured. They would also be able to mark beers as “favorites” or create a wish list of beers for future visits. This will make it easier for customers to discover new brews as well as help them find their favorites even quicker. The experience of having your favorite waitress make beer recommendations based on your taste can be preserved, while even making recommendations more accurate much like how Netflix recommends movies based on past reviews. The bottom line, customers will order more beers they will like faster.
A social aspect could also be introduced to the ordering process, via an interface with Facebook or Twitter. Imagine seeing what beer a friend had the last time they were at Taco Mac and their opinion of the beer. Also imagine a status update on Facebook telling all of your friends you are at Taco Mac and just tried beer X. This would be an incredibly powerful viral marketing tool. Targeted advertising could also be sold to breweries, as the screen saver of the iPad could be a suggestion to try the brewery’s new product for instance.
Additional Benefits Outside the Beer Ordering Process
In addition the all of the tangible benefits of the improved system, iPads would bring an added “coolness” factor to Taco Mac. As tablets become more and more mainstream, they are popping up in places that they have never been seen before. By being an early adopters of tablets in the restaurant industry, Taco Mac can be seen as “cutting edge” and “trendy” which would help them maintain their younger demographic.
The iPad interface can be used for many things, this is a sports bar after all. A customer would certainly get added value from being able to go over to ESPN.com and check game scores. Simple things such as this would improve the customer experience without costing much.
Payment could also be processed via the tablets. As Taco Mac often caters to large groups, splitting the check is a commonplace and extremely tedious process. An iPad at the table could allow customers to split how they see fit and even swipe a credit card to pay if they wish using a device plugged into the iPad.