Camino Financial
By: camino-financial
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How to Apply the Principles of Lean Management to Your Restaurant 

What makes a customer come back to your restaurant? The quality of your product and your service. In other words, quality relates directly to the customer’s satisfaction. How much do you invest in offering the highest quality? How much it takes so that your customers leave your restaurant as happy as possible? Quite a lot. As a restaurant owner, you know that every cent counts, and you cannot waste your money.

A restaurant is one of the most complex businesses to manage. Here is a post with reliable data that proves it. Lean management principles can help you.

Lean Management isn’t just for large restaurants. Its principles can be useful for restaurants in any type and size. If you own a restaurant, whether it is big or small, you cannot throw away or run out of food, or take too long to prepare it.

First, I recommend you to learn the basics about lean Management before moving on to the next step: how to apply these principles to your restaurant or hospitality business.

Lean Management Basics 

Lean Management is a long-term approach that supports continual improvement. It’s all about making small and gradual changes to improve efficiency and quality.

Which processes do you follow at your restaurant? You must know some of them by heart.

You will need to remember others. Maybe some are written somewhere, and others are in the mind of your employees. However, one thing is for sure: you need to be clear on those processes to improve your business. If you visualize them, you will be able to improve them.

Let’s take the process you may follow to make a hamburger, for instance. It contains several steps. Draw them: take post-its and write each step on each of them. Pin the post-its on a whiteboard.

We will try to improve the hamburger process, step by step, through lean Management. We will get rid of the extra time, effort, or money spent. For example:

  • Can we make hamburgers faster until we make them as quick as possible without losing quality? (Some food for thought: have you calculated the time required to complete your processes?)
  • Could you make hamburgers spending less money on ingredients but keeping the level of customer satisfaction? Can you negotiate with suppliers the price of tomato and lettuce, for instance?
  • Is there any unnecessary or missing step? For example, should the cook add ketchup and mustard? Should they cut the burger in half before serving it? Will this add quality to the product or service?
  • To sum up, identify each step of the process and remove any lost time, effort or money. Besides, do away with any actions that do not add value.

5 Benefits of Using Lean Management at Your Restaurant

Before getting down to business, I suggest you read a fascinating article by Jeff Zhou on Planet Lean about how the Chinese restaurant chain Xibei adopted the lean methodology. Here’s how your restaurant will improve as soon as you start applying the lean management principles:

  1. You will create a culture of continuous improvement that will positively affect the people, the processes, and the tools at your restaurant. These are the elements that make your restaurant the best it can be.
  2. You will increase the quality of your restaurant, that is, the level of customer satisfaction. Thus, you will increase your earnings. And more money at the end of the day means more long-term financial resources for your business. 
  3. You will be able to spot problems quickly and, therefore, figure out potential improvements. You will only be able to do this by visualizing your restaurant processes (preparation of products, service, time invested, Management of complaints, etc.)
  4. Your customers will get their orders as soon as possible, and your service will be flawless. As a result, the level of customer satisfaction will increase.
  5. Saving time and money will mean a direct improvement in cash flow and an increase in your earnings and your long-term financial resources.

In short, you will offer more competitive quality, services, and prices.

5 Tips to Start Implementing Lean Management at Your Restaurant 

I recommend a brilliant Master’s degree final project by María Castro Peña at Universidad de Valladolid titled Desarrollo de un producto para la escuela Lean en el sector de la restauración: “Menú de restaurante de comida rápida” (Development of a Product for the Lean School in the Restaurant Area: Fast Food Restaurant Menu). 

It deals with everything you need: a combination of principles, practices, and tools.

It will give you food for thought and some practical examples. Pay attention to the in-depth analysis of MacDonald’s. You will learn how this chain restaurant applies Lean Management from the moment orders are made from raw material to the moment customers receive them. Also, you’ll get valuable insights on how the kitchen works, what roles the employees have, what the hygiene and cleanliness policies are like, and so on.

This specific example of a world-famous restaurant will help you apply the lean principles to your own restaurant.  

Now let’s see 5 precise ways to make it:

Tip #1

All the members of your team should think about continuous improvement in price, quality, and service, and share their ideas with their co-workers in real-time.

  • Make sure your staff receives basic training in lean. You don’t need to change that much the way you think. We are all used to running our homes as effectively as possible. So adapting the logic behind that to the restaurant does not take long.
  • All the members should know what you expect them to do in their roles.
  • Visualize your restaurant’s processes, and make your team do the same.
  • Your team needs to know how to communicate and record changes so that all methods continually improve. If someone finds a way to grow, they should share it and validate it with their team before including it definitely in the process.
  • Motivate and thank those who put forward improvements.

Tip #2

Re-design your menus with Lean Management in mind. Probably, you are doing a lot of lean-like things without even knowing it. Maybe you are already cross-selling products in different plates, using seasonal products that you can get at lower prices in given seasons, or providing customers an exact number of napkins with their order to go. Here you can learn how to do a menu auditto make the most of what you have in the pantry.

Tip #3

Standardize your processes to the maximum. For instance, it is crucial to prepare the dishes in the same way –using the same measuring units and ingredients no matter who makes them– and as quickly as possible. You should also modify or design spaces (kitchen, table layouts, pantry) always with efficiency and safety in mind. On this note, you should read how to design and decorate your restaurant.

Tip #4

Keep everything clean and in order. Without this, adopting lean Management could be hard. Your team and you should study how to organize the space at your restaurant. Besides, you should think about waste management, recycling, and how to reduce dirt as much as possible. I learned this from my mother. When she cooks, she doesn’t make a mess. She cleans up and drops waste in the trash bin as she does the cooking. When I cook, the kitchen is a total mess!

Tip #5

Create a culture of learning at your restaurant and start by yourself. Take time to read, go to workshops, and, above all, share experiences and knowledge. Have a look at this list of networking events in 2020 for restaurant owners. Don’t miss them!


I have tried to help you change your mind. Stop and think about how you can make things better. You will get the highest level of customer satisfaction by using lean Management. You will able to offer them a valuable product or service as soon as possible and at the lowest cost.

You may need financing to improve your restaurant. You can count on Camino Financial. Our motto is “No business left behind,” and we will be happy to help you. Most of our clients are restaurant owners. We know the ins and outs of the food industry, and our expert advisors will guide you and find the best financing solution for your business. Check out our small business loans and contact us. We will love to hear from you!

If I happen to see at your restaurant, make my day and tell me which lean management practices you adopted! I hope I have been helpful. See you soon at one of your tables!

Camino recommended reading: How to Increase Your Restaurant Revenue.






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