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02/18/2010

Next-Gen Kitchen Tech Helps Lucille's 'Smoke' Previous Table Wait Times

Routinely packing 300 seats and a large bar within 10,000 square foot restaurants, Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que serves generous portions of slow smoked meats with a choice of sauces, a dozen side dishes, and a number of desserts. In addition to supporting an extensive lunch and dinner menu of more than 100 items, the entire menu is available family style, which ensures the seating of many groups. Always offering guests choices, Lucille's also provides carry out, online ordering, and catering services.

Driven by the sheer size of the menu and footprint, as well as significant store volumes with a lot of large parties, operations at the Lucille's restaurants are extremely complex. For instance, there are often 30 open checks at a time in the kitchen, and the restaurants are typically on a wait every night of the week and during most lunches. The number one complaint from guests was that waits were too long. Lucille's conquered this challenge by implementing comprehensive kitchen automation and table management solutions from QSR Automations.

A quality kitchen
Running QSR's ConnectSmart Kitchen (CSK) graphical software with QSR's kitchen controllers and keypads, Lucille's is able to balance the lines in the kitchen, ensure that all of the menu items for an order are completed at the same time, and streamline the ability to clear the window. While the guests have noticed the improved food quality, because all hot items are served hot and all cold items are served cold, the team members appreciate the organization that the solution has brought to the entire restaurant.

The CSK times all menu items within an order, presenting each item at the appropriate time on the appropriate prep station screen in the specific way that Lucille's wants that item to appear on the screen. For chefs taking care of the very sizable kitchens, this means less stress and no more paper clutter. For management, this means more speed, less consumables costs, and access to production data. The CSK tracks every action at every prep and expo station, making that information available in real time and historical formats.

Taking the bottleneck out of the front entrance
To gain better control and to see a marked reduction of stress at the front-of-house, Lucille's uses QSR's ConnectSmart Hostess seating and wait list management software. With ConnectSmart Hostess, the restaurant managers now have tools to determine if wait times are being over quoted, which was causing many guests to turn away. The system actually becomes smarter over time, because wait times are calculated based on historical data as well as what is actually going on in the restaurant. The system also helps drive seating efficiency through the use of customized suggested seating rules and a highly intuitive graphical interface that shows the real time status of every party.

To encourage guests to visit more often, Lucille's also uses QSR's fully integrated ConnectSmart Reservations in-store software. Prior to adding the system, Lucille's could only take reservations for large parties, which was done manually and only by the restaurant managers. Lucille's is now able to capture, view, and search guest information from a central guest database across the seating, wait list, and reservations functions, thus adding speed and giving the entire restaurant team access to the information needed to provide the most personalized guest service.

To further grow guest loyalty, Lucille's will be giving guests the choice of adding their name to the wait list or making a reservation via the Internet. With QSR's ConnectSmart WebAhead and ConnectSmart WebReserve online solutions, Lucille's gains the advantage of an economical, fixed monthly price that is presented in the context of Lucille's well-recognized branding. The site that guests visit, launches from the Lucille's website, and seamlessly carries the Lucille's branding.

Connected success
While the effect of QSR's kitchen automation and table management solutions on guest loyalty may be hard to fully quantify, the Lucille's restaurants are seeing an improvement of approximately four to five minutes per check. And with the solutions now in place, Lucille's is able to manage, capture, and view the entire guest experience.

As vice president of operations for Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, Paul Williamson has been instrumental in launching the 14-location brand, and growing it into one of the highest volume restaurant brands in the region in just 10 years. Originally joining the privately held company 32 years ago, Williamson first served as a general manager and district supervisor for the company's Hof's Hut brand. As he continues to oversee and grow the Lucille's restaurants, Williamson is also helping to expand the brand to include the new Lucille's Rib Shack fast casual concept, which will open its second location later this year.