Chipotle’s speed of service is one of the biggest contributors to its success.
Some of the Mexican chain’s busiest restaurants average more than 350 transactions in a single hour during lunch time. That’s one freshly prepared and packaged burrito in the hands of a customer about every 10 seconds.
Internally, the elaborate assembly line that manages those hundreds of orders is called “Four Pillars Of Great Throughput.”
Chipotle co-CEO Steve Ells recently explained the four pillars at conferences in Chicago and New York. They include:
1. Aces in their places: These are the restaurant’s top servers who work on the “front lines” and deal with customers directly, taking their orders and making their burritos. When the four pillars are in place, the aces “don’t need to do anything other than look you in the eye, communicate with you, and serve you,” Ells said, according to a transcript of the Chicago conference.
2. The l
inebacker: “This is someone who is in the background, behind the service folk on the service line,” Ells said at a second conference in New York, according to a transcript. “And they are replenishing the food and making sure that the area is clean and organised and its really allows our servers to continue with great eye contact, great communication with the customers and making sure they are going through smoothly.”
3. The expediter: This is the person between the “aces” and the cash register. They make sure that all of a customers orders are bundled and they retrieve chips and drinks. The expediter is essential to preventing a bottleneck at the cash register, Ells said.
4. Mise en place: This is a French term meaning “everything in its place.” At Chipotle, it means that all ingredients and utensils are ready for use ahead of busy meal hours. This could include the cooks who prepare the food.
Chipotle is constantly working to improve the efficiency of the “Four Pillars.” Within the last year, executives began reviewing security camera footage of restaurants to verify that the system was being properly implemented.
What they found was “eye-opening,” Ells said.
“You can see that in some cases, restaurant field leaders have said, ‘I’m doing four pillars in 100% of my restaurants,’ [but] their rates were more like 40% or 50%,” Ells said. Ells says the execution figures have since been increased to 90%.
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