The omniscient restaurant feasibility test

How hard is it to deliver the food to the customer in time? My business partner and I were pondering on this idea last week. As a customer who orders food, it would be great if the restaurant you are calling knew who you are, what you want and where you reside. It would be even better if the restaurant went one step ahead and, heeding your behavior as one of their regulars, somehow knew you were going to order food. So we let our minds roam free around this ideas for a while and tried to evaluate the feasibility of this… insightful restaurant.

Is it possible to dispatch the order as soon at it is placed? Well, of course it is. If you happen to have the order ready by the time the phone is hanged, then you can. This means, of course, knowing that the order is going to be placed at a certain time, and making the arrangements for it to be ready beforehand.

Is it possible to know what the customer wants? If you pay attention to the orders the customer has placed before, it is. Knowing that every time Joseph calls on a thursday night he orders a pepperoni pizza, you can assume he will most probably order the same the next thursday night he calls. You can’t be 100% certain, but he will most probably do so.

Can you know the customer is about to place an order and what he is going to ask for? This one is difficult, but not completely impossible. Let us say, just for the purposes of enunciating a case where it is possible to know for certain, that your restaurant only sells one product (say, chicken salad), that you are open only on mondays at noon, and that you sell only to your grandma. Not a very promising business, but let me continue with this fantasy: your grandma is also incapacitated and remembers only a single phone number: your restaurant’s. Being invalid and hungry, she has to call you. Ok, this is a very specific example, but I just wanted to prove it is possible. Let me tell you another, more realistic example: again, you only sell chicken salad, and open only on mondays at noon. (I said “more realistic”, not “real.”) You have been on business for a couple of years and every month’s first monday you get a call from Paul, your most loyal customer, who orders two salads. In this case, you can assume he is going to call again the next first monday. You can’t be completely certain, but he is most probably going to place the same order again. Now, let us analyze a real world scenario. You sell different types of salad, are open every day from noon to dusk, and Joseph usually orders a chicken salad every friday around 1 PM. In this case you can’t be certain at all he is going to order a salad next friday. However, If you happen to have a couple more customers who also order salads every friday around 1 PM, you can maybe assume that most probably one of them is going to call, that probably two of them will, and that maybe all three. So yes, knowing what a single customer is going to ask for and the time at which he is going to place his order is very unlikely in the real world, but you can still have good odds at guessing how your customers will behave as a group at a certain time.

Can you get to the customer in time? Say, 10 minutes. Well, yes you can. If you happen to be 10 minutes away from your customer and have the order ready by the time it is placed, you will get there in time. Or if you you take 5 minutes to prepare the food and another 5 minutes to get there. But, what if the customer was 15 minutes away… can you reach him in 10 minutes? It might seem impossible at first, but I think it is not. It requires you to be one step ahead of him. You have to know what he will order and when he is going to do so. It requires that you prepare the food in advance (let’s say you sell cold salads, so you doesn’t have any temperature issue). And to deliver it near your customer before he calls.

Salads it is, then. Everyone fancies a salad for lunch in Chile nowadays. Problem is, the good restaurants can take only a handful of clients. So either you settle for a bad salad or have to wait up to hours for it to arrive. Could we come up with way to deliver them fast enough?

To be continued…

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