McDonald’s Lean Startup: The Minimum Viable Kitchen
Updated: Jan 6
Why do we go to McDonald’s? Do they have the best burgers? Probably not. Do they have the best fries? Maybe that is a topic worthy of a debate. Then, why do people go to McDonald’s?
Once upon a time, the McDonald brothers went out to a tennis court, where Dick McDonald, the co-founder of McDonald's used chalk to draw out the exact dimensions of their kitchen. For Dick, the fast-food revolution began with his one ambitious idea:
To have food orders ready in 30 seconds, rather than 30 minutes.
For those of you who remember in the early 90’s, McDonald’s used to cook their sandwiches and place them in a heating bin. They would place a marker behind a batch of sandwiches to let everyone know when those sandwiches expire (thus becoming waste).
Management either used “gut feeling” or forecasting to predict demand. Most would overpredict during peak hours and underpredict during non-peak.
Down to Science: Measurable, Repeatable, and Predictable
Jump ahead 25 years. After your order is displayed you can watch it on the monitor above the desk where all the previous orders are displayed. You can immediately see what your order status is and the kids in the kitchen have already started working on it, and you need to patiently wait.
Meanwhile, the kids in the kitchen receive the orders one after another. They work only on the first order in the line (not the shouting dude's order). The manager, an older kid, can easily know what the team is currently working on without endless status meetings with the team. Finally, you check that the order is indeed what you asked for, sit down and enjoy your meal. The processing of the entire order takes only three minutes.
Every order was being assembled immediately after the order was made, this is a perfect example of Lean Pull Process and using a One-Piece flow method. In the Pull Process, the bins for the cooked meat and only when the order is placed, the meat is pulled into the assembly area.
To deal with Overproduction, they have kept the patties, salad, and other sides ready, and combine them into finished sandwiches only once an order is placed. The time taken during this process is a few minutes.
The cooking equipment and the skilled workforce at McDonald's prepare the order in less than a minute. Adding technology and human talent has helped to drastically reduce the waiting time.
McDonald's places a great deal of importance on total employee involvement. Emphasis is placed on working as a team and involve everyone in the process. They believe in multi-skilling; this helps build knowledge in the team.
Striving for Improvement
It would be unrealistic to believe that McDonald's has achieved perfection. So, they constantly try to improve as an organization and get closer to achieving the once unthinkable.
Then, why we go to McDonald's? Probably because we are in a rush, or want some enjoyment with the kiddos, a quick snack, or to get a $1 ice cream they offer. Regardless of the reason, is a fact that Mc Donald’s is a champion in lean manufacturing and customer service.