The "Waist" of Overproduction?

Restaurants Take Leadership Role with Portion Control

Pardon the horrible joke there. One of the types of Waste, defined by lean manufacturing, is “overproduction,” the idea of providing more than the customer wants (or providing it earlier).

Portion sizes at restaurants have grown to the point of outrageous, huge plates, huge portions. Restaurants claim this is what the customers want. I’ve always suspected that it’s driven more by the restaurant driving more revenue and profit from the “fixed cost” of your visit and your use of that table for 45-90 minutes.

I would assume that a huge portion requires just about the same labor (kitchen and wait staff) to produce as compared to a normal portion and the raw material cost is marginally higher. So, the restaurant makes more money and forces you to spend more for a huge $11.99 entree (at a Chili’s/Friday’s/Applebee’s type restaurant) that provides “value”, either in terms of providing a lunch the next day, or in terms of tightening your waistband if you eat it all.

The TGI Friday’s chain is taking a positive step in offering “Right Portion, Right Price” meals that are smaller and proportionally cheaper. It will be interesting to see if they use this “prove” that customers want the larger portions, as these smaller meals will be on the regular menu alongside the regular portions.

It’s an interesting experiment toward reducing the waste of overproduction, a waste that leads either to wasted food or the wasted human potential that results from poor health.

In your own business, are there cases where you force larger batches/amounts on customers because it’s more economic for you?

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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