Process and Customer Experience at Economic Rice Stall

One of places I usually go for lunch in the weekdays is the food court at the Esplanade Link.  It is only a short walk from Raffles City complex, it has variety of foods, the foods are generally good and the price is reasonable.

My favorite stall in that food court is the Economic Rice.  This stall always has the longest queue during lunch time; and yet people don’t mind to queue.  Despite the long queue, the queue is surprisingly fast, thanks to the way they serve the customers.

The stall is in the corner, in “L” shape, something similar to the image below.  There were usually four stall keepers manning the stall, other than perhaps another two or three at the back who do the cooking.  The queue started from the stall keeper in the corner, marked with ‘1’.

Capture.PNG

The stall keeper ‘1’ main responsibility was to ask the customer what he wants: whether he wants rice or porridge and whether he wants to eat the food at the food court or to ta bao (take away).  He then scooped the rice to the plate or a take away box.  He was responsible to scoop the first one or two side dishes that are closest to his area.

The 2nd stall keeper, marked as ‘2’ on the picture above, would then take over the dish.  The customer move dto the left and continue to order side dishes from the area closest to the 2nd stall keeper. Meanwhile, stall keeper ‘1’ took new order.

Once completed, stall keeper ‘2’ handed over the plate or takeaway box full with the food to the 3rd stall keeper, marked with ‘3’ on the picture.  In front of this stall keeper there were two big bowls, one with gravy and another one with curry.  Stall keeper ‘3’ main responsibility was to ask the customer whether he wants curry or gravy to be added to the dish. If the customer ordered porridge, stall keeper ‘3’ would scoop the porridge to the bowl. He then put the dish in front of the 4th stall keeper.

The last stall keeper, stall keeper ‘4’, marked with ‘4’ on the picture, was mainly responsible to handle the payment.  He was also in-charge to put the takeaway box in the plastic bag.  Customer would then leave the stall.

As illustrated above, each stall keeper in the stall had a very clear roles and responsibility; and they followed it to the dot.  There was also a coordination between stall keeper ‘1’ and stall keeper ‘2’; the moment the 2nd stall keeper was free, he would immediately take the plate/box from the stall keeper ‘1’.

Putting the curry and gravy in giant bowls was also a brilliant idea. Without those bowls, if the customer wanted curry or gravy, the dish needs to move back to stall keeper ‘1’ or ‘2’, disrupting the order from other customers.

All of the arrangement above resulted in an efficient queue.  The customers would have a great experience as they could get their meals fast.  The customers would then willing to queue despite the long queue.  The stall also benefits, it could get more income as they could serve more customers within the same period.

However, the stall owner might realized that the arrangement could be improved further. For example, not all customers would want extra gravy or curry.  The 3rd stall keeper was not as busy as his colleagues.

The 4th stall keeper, the cashier, was busy with money (the stall does not accept cashless payment), worse if the customer gave him a big note. For takeaway, he need to close the box, get one plastic bag and put the box[es] in the plastic bag.  This was slower than the speed the first three stall keepers in serving the customers, caused a delay.  It was uncommon to see three to four customers waiting to pay.

Today,  I came to Esplanade Link’s food court again and I noticed the layout of the stall changed a bit and I noticed the queue was even faster.

There was no change in roles and responsibilities for stall keeper ‘1’ and ‘2’; however once stall keeper ‘2’ completed the order, he would hand it over to the cashier, who occupied the space originally meant for the big bowls of curry and gravy.

Customers would make the payment.  The cashier did nothing but accept the payment.  If the customer did not want to get curry or gravy, he would simply pick the dish and leave. For customer who want extra curry or gravy, he simply moved to the left and then scoop the extra curry or gravy himself from the giant bowls.

Stall keeper ‘4’ was responsible to put the boxes to the plastic bag or to get the porridge.

This simple improvement, swapping the role of stall keeper ‘3’ and ‘4’, is brilliant.  It removed bunching at the cashier – when the cashier was busy putting the takeaway box[es] into the plastic bag, which slowed down the whole process.

Customers who eat in the food court and who don’t want to get curry/gravy could immediately pay their meals and go.  The queue for them was faster; other than there was no bunching issue, they also skipped the gravy/curry step in the previous process.

For customers who want extra curry or gravy, they could get the curry/gravy themselves.  As there was no bunching, they could get the food faster.

For takeaway customers, the experience may be the same as before, or perhaps slightly better because there was no bunching.

This small improvement does improve customers experience, simply because the queue moved faster and they could get the food faster.

I am not so sure whether there is a financial benefit, too.  However, as the queue moved faster, it would lead to shorter queue, which may attract more customers.

Whether the stall owner realized or not, he had improved the process and customer experience. He also showed that such activities could be done even by small business like his.  Huge Improvements could be achieved by simple (and looked trivial) changes, such as swapping the stall keepers.

</>

 

 

 

Airbus and the Unlucky 8

Recently Airbus announced that it would stop the production of the largest airliner, the A380.  Despite its popularity with the passengers, the plane is unfortunately not popular to bean counters airlines executives.

The premature end of A380 productions (as compared to its rival, Boeing 747 series), also cap Airbus unlucky experience of using supposed-to-be lucky number of 8.

From A300 to A380

Both Airbus and Boeing have naming convention for its planes.  Airbus named its first model it produced, the A300.  Subsequently it named the model in multiply of 10: A310, A320, the A330 and A340 .

However, when Airbus announced the A380, it deliberately skipped A350, A360 and A370.  The number ‘8’ was chosen because it resembles the double-deck cross section – the A380 is the first airliner to have a full-length double-deck* – and it is considered as lucky number in Chinese numerology.

It is not uncommon for aircraft manufacturers to have different variants for the same model; different in range, capacity or generation.  For example, the 747 started as 747-100 and subsequent variant was named 747-200.  Airbus A330-200 is shorter (and has more range) than the A330-300.

The A380 has, in fact, two eights because the base (and only) variant of A380 is … 800.

Despite having two ‘8s’, the Airbus A380-800 – shortened as A388 – has not been having good sales.  Other than Emirates – which ordered half of A388s produced, no other airlines acquired the A388s in large number. The A380 programme was doomed.

Alas, Airbus continues to have problem with number 8.

Among other models Airbus is currently producing, A350 is its largest twin-engine wide-body airliner.  It has at least 3 variants, A350-900, A350-900ULR and A350-1000; with -900 has the shorter frame (and lower passenger capacity) as compared to A350-1000.  However, the A350-900 was not planned as the smallest variant.

Airbus planned to ‘shrink’ the -900 to even shorter frame (and with less passengers count) and name it A350-800.  It was meant to serve thinner route while maintaining commonality with its larger cousins. However, the shrink made the variant noncompetitive; so the -800 variant was a stillborn.

Airbus unlucky experience with ‘8’ does not stop here.  It recently launched the re-engined variant of its popular A330 model, called A330NEO (New Engine Option).  It has two variants, A330-800 and A330-900; with the former is having shorter frame (and longer range) than the later.

However, the -800 model has not been popular. Airbus has received order for only 8 A338 from one airline, Kuwait Airlines; as opposed to 231 orders for the A330-900 variant. It is unlikely for A338 variant to have large orders, considering that the -900 variant is as capable as -800 and the entire A330NEO line is facing stiff competition from Boeing 787s.

Boeing has a better experience with number 8.

Even though its latest variant of 747, the 747-8, is not selling well (with only 154 orders), the saving grace for Boeing is it spent a modest amount to develop B747-8 as it was a modification from earlier model, 747-400.   Boeing also could claim that nothing could dethrone the ‘queen of the skies’ as it will still be producing 747-8 – with current backlog and production rate – will still be produced when the last A380 leaves Airbus production line.

While the 747-8 is not considered successful, Boeing has a better experience with number 8 with its latest twin-engine wide-body model, the 787.  This model has been a runway success, clocking more than 1,400 orders. Its smallest variant, 787-8 has similarity to A388, it has a ‘double-eight’. However the similarity ends there as airlines ordered 444 B787-8s, well better than 251 orders for the A380s.

So, number 8 may not be a lucky number for everyone!

 

* Technically the A380 has 3 decks; however the passengers would see only the main deck and upper deck. The lower deck is used for cargo or crew rest area.