One of the things I love about my job is that I get the opportunity to travel—and occasionally my work takes me outside of Europe and into the USA. Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta, Georgia. Sadly, my schedule was packed with work related commitments, and although I became very familiar with the inside of offices, hotels and airports, I only got to see the city briefly. However, two things vividly stick in my mind: The first was a visit to the Olympic park, which is well worth a visit if you ever happen to be in the city. The second was (several) visits to a restaurant chain called The Cheesecake Factory.
As far as I know, we don’t have The Cheesecake Factory here in the UK, so I’ll explain it to anyone who hasn’t yet experienced it: It’s a restaurant that, as well as serving main courses, serves every conceivable type of cheesecake you can imagine served in extremely ample portions! Here’s a picture I took at the counter which shows some of the range (I particularly recommend the “red velvet”, so if you happen to be passing please feel free to mail me a portion…)
Now, as those of you that know me will appreciate, I find it very difficult to switch off the “business analyst” chip in my head, so whenever I visit a restaurant, I’m always thinking about how the business operates. And I have to say, businesses like The Cheesecake Factory fascinate me. There’s a huge variety of dishes on the menu, with (presumably) a huge range of ingredients being required. The numbers are huge: I recently read that the chain serves around 80 million people a year, with 200 dishes created from scratch in each restaurant. There must be a significant number of businesses processes and procedures being carried out to support this – everything from taking an order and serving a customer right through to sourcing ingredients, running payroll and managing quality. The organisation must be dealing with huge amounts of data about its customers, its profitability right through to data about its ingredients and its supply chain. That’s quite some complexity and some “big data”!
Yet as a customer, I don’t want to worry about the complexity of the data or processes that are making the business run – I just want an excellent experience. The challenge for a business like the cheesecake factory is how to assure an excellent and consistent customer experience, every time. How to ensure that the small but essential details are right — like the quality of each individual ingredient meets corporate standards.