Restaurant Kaizen

I don’t watch much television, but when I do, I enjoy watching cooking shows. One show that I’ve been enjoying a lot is a show called Restaurant Impossible, where they employ Kaizen and reduce restaurant wait time. While the show does not use the term “Kaizen”, the show is exactly Kaizen and the results are amazing.

Chef Robert Irvine is a turnaround expert, where he helps 1 failing restaurant per week and within 48 hours, a small team, $10,000 budget, improves the restaurant and, hopefully, makes the restaurant profitable and successful. In their words,

Chef Robert Irvine faces a daunting new challenge: save America’s most desperate restaurants from impending failure in just two days with only $10,000. In his new prime-time Food Network series, Restaurant: Impossible, Robert uses creativity and resourcefulness along with a lot of muscle in his fight to rescue these restaurants and give hope to the owners and their employees. Day one of the extreme mission begins with a thorough business assessment as Robert launches the restaurant into full service, closely observes the staff and kitchen, and determines their weakest spots. Then, he springs into action by updating the menu, retraining the staff and implementing aesthetic changes with the help of his design team. To ensure a packed house for the grand re-opening at the end of day two, Robert hits the streets to tell the community about the improved restaurant. Will the ruthless schedule, tight budget and ambitious task overcome Robert’s lofty goals, or will this tall order result in restaurant triumph?

Do you see the elements of Kaizen?

  • Resourcefulness
  • Constraints
  • Mind over Money
  • Teamwork

In a recent episode, Chef Irvine helped a failing restaurant in California and these were the steps he undertook:

  1. Meet the team, short interview with the Restaurant owner and learn about history and perception of why the restaurant is failing.
  2. Observation of kitchen, staff, and tasting the food – educate the staff on restaurant operations .
  3. Meet the team and review plan of attack.
  4. 5S the entire restaurant.
  5. Reduce the number of steps to prepare food in the kitchen with the goal of fresh food and fast – a key step Chef Irvine seems to employ is to pre-prepare food so that the time is spent prior to the customer ordering the dish. In other words, the customer’s experience is improved because to the customer, the food is prepared quickly, but really the food was pre-prepared. The net result is that the wait time is reduced for the customer .
  6. Marketing – promotion, pricing, and product (product is the food and service)
  7. Open the restaurant.

It’s a fascinating show and if you have a chance to see it, all you Kaizen enthusiasts will enjoy what you see. Perhaps you might learn a thing or two about how to conduct Kaizen events. I know I have.


Good post on restaurant kaizen and I do learn from these type of makeover shows currently on TV. I have not seen this one yet but will look out for it in the future.

For the most part, they all have a good combination of turnaround methods (assess, rapid implementation, deep clean, simplify, etc) closely linking to our lean world. Amazing how often cleaning is a huge part of each turnaround!

However I do notice one problem. Many of these type shows rely heavily on the expert to provide the solutions instead of the team coming up with the improvement ideas. I saw this on Bar Rescue, even to the point of renaming the business!

For me, that kills it from my idea of kaizen. I prefer to “enlighten” my teams to lean principles, give them a chance to see through new kaizen eyes and unleash them to make their own improvements. Much better approach to me.

What do you think?

I agree. The show is entertaining, but not completely aligned with the principles of Kaizen, especially the principle of teaching and stretching your people from pure motivations. There is too much of a hero-does-all element to it, but it is entertaining television.

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