Avoiding “Pizza Infrastructure”

To those that know Chicago, Giordano’s is an institution. The best stuffed pizza ANYWHERE. But that creates a problem for them, because these stuffed pizzas take a LONG time to bake. They’ve solved that problem though…well, kinda’ sorta’.

If you call ahead and there’s no wait for a table, they’ll start baking a pie for you before you arrive. If there is a wait, they’ll still bake your pie in advance, but you will have to wait until you get there to “pre-order”, then your pie will be baked while you are waiting for your table. This is a win-win – you will not wait as long at your table, and the restaurant will turn more tables and make more money.

So, what could go wrong? Plenty, as it turns out: there is a near complete lack of communication.

When you get to Giordano’s, there are two very clearly marked lines: “Get on Waitlist” and “Pre-Order” Simple, right? Nope. Not at all.

These two signs are where the communication ends. Which line do you get in first? Is the “Order Pizza” line just for carryout orders? It seemed to be for Pre-Orders, so I got in the “Waitlist” line first figuring I would go to pre-orders after I had a spot in line – WRONG.

I ended up waiting in three lines because I initially got into the wrong line. The ordering infrastructure at Giordano’s would be beautiful IF there were clear instructions. Without the instructions, the lobby becomes a jumbled mess of confused people who are all waiting for their taste of legendary pizza.

No matter your reputation or how good your product is, the best infrastructure can quickly become the worst without clear, concise communication. So how do you avoid “pizza infrastructure”? I’m so glad you asked!

Communicate Expectations Clearly
Building a strong infrastructure that accomplishes meaningful work and gets your product to the customer in a way that keeps the customer happy is your objective. It’s the ideal, and it is completely achievable. Yeah, you can’t please everyone 100 percent of the time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t establish a highly efficient infrastructure that meets almost everyone’s needs, wants, and desires.

Communicating everyone’s expectations as well as what they can expect from a process is where it starts. You need to keep your steps simple, the tasks for each group no larger or smaller than their output can accommodate, and you need to ensure that end users and customers always know when and where they can expect delivery of their order. If you don’t have this down, even a fantastically organized system is going to breach down into anarchy eventually.

Establish Reliability
The mark of any good process or infrastructure is easy repetition over time without the need for major overhaul or adjustment every quarter or 6 months. Good infrastructure solves problems and does not generate more of its own as time passes.

A reliable infrastructure is one that uses processes and protocols for providing goods and services continuously without generating additional problems and issues that need to be resolved. If you feel like all you are doing is “putting out fires” and practicing reactive maintenance on your business process, you don’t have a reliable infrastructure.

Take the time to establish clear communication and stress test your infrastructure prior to deciding about its reliability. It’s much easier to make changes during the initial phase than it is to try and change your processes after they have been established for a while.

Be Flexible
In the wise words of Prussian military strategist Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.”

If you want your infrastructure to work the way it should and keep your team and your clients happy, you need the ability to think on your feet and adapt to changing conditions in the market and in customer preferences on the fly.

You can construct the best workflow imaginable on paper addressing (to your mind) every potential contingency. Then the first day you start operating using that workflow, five unexpected contingencies come up and your plan must now integrate them, or your infrastructure is rendered impractical.

Make all the plans you can to deal with potential hiccups and problems, but recognize you need a flexible system that is able to sustain continuous operation. Without flexibility, your infrastructure will increase everyone’s frustration and hurt your business.

Total Integration Is Critical to Success
Once you establish a process that addresses your needs and the needs of your clients, you must ensure it’s implemented across your organization. Granted, not all departments or stages of the development and production are going to operate ideally or even well under one infrastructure, but that would be true of any new system you adopt.

Clear communication, reliability, and flexibility are going to be your infrastructure’s greatest assets; don’t forget about them. Communicate clearly what you expect, ensure the process is reliable, and be flexible when specific differences or obstacles are presented by different stages of your production chain. Make infrastructure happen the right way, and you won’t have to deal with the pitfalls of a “pizza infrastructure”.

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