When we talk about "Right Sizing" in Lean, the typical context is a machine way bigger than we need or a department spreading out to take available space rather than keeping machines and people close to each other. Yet it remains a difficult concept for many to grasp, especially when so many of us feel "bigger is better."
I was thrilled, therefore, to stumble upon a marvelous small cafe during a vacation trip recently. The Czarnuszka Soup Bar in Ephraim, Wisconsin demonstrates right-sizing with the best taste ever.
Paul owns, operates, cooks, cleans, markets, and loves the CZ Soup Bar. I talked with him three times during our week in the area, the last a substantive conversation during a slow period on a Thursday afternoon. His story is instructive.
Paul has been in food service for nearly 20 years, living in commercial kitchens, hoping to do something on his own. Familiar with this small, tourist-oriented area north of the more famous town of Green Bay, Paul developed a plan over the past few years.
He looked for a small space, which he found about a year ago. He then fitted it with a single stove, small but adequate refrigerator, seating for 12 people inside and 12 more on the porch. He worked out a plan for a simple but compelling menu plan: Four soups and two sandwiches each day, the menu written on a chalk board. He'd pick the soups, based on what was in season and what seemed pleasing to customers. He made it with passion, from scratch, from the heart. He worked out the marketing plan; a simple photo of the chalkboard posted each morning on Facebook. He worked out a personnel plan: he could do everything, needing no employees.
He opened his dream in May, 2011. Through the warm summer season, he did OK. But his plan was to stay and prosper as the tourists left, the Wisconsin temperatures cooled and local residents still wanted tasty soups. When we met in late September, the plan was gelling. I witnessed a steady stream of customers, all enjoying the warmth and aroma of homemade soup in a cozy setting. I saw a smiling Paul, feeling like it was coming together.
What does this say about right sizing? How did Paul right size?
- His facility. The small store was what he could manage himself.
- His equipment. The kitchen had just what he needed; no extra.
- His marketing. With a small menu, a photo on FB works great.
- His location. He picked a small town where a small soup bar had a chance of succeeding.
- His menu. The offerings each day are limited...it's a soup bar, after all, not a diner. This lets him deliver what he knows he can make well.
- His technology. A chalk board is far more flexible than a written menu. Paul can shift it (and does) daily. He told me how he enjoys experimenting to find what works.
- His expectations. This is the biggie. At a strategic level, Paul rightsized. Paul knew what he wanted; independence, a way to make an adequate if not extravagant income. And he sized the entire enterprise to do just that.
Will he make it? Time will tell. But Paul sure set it up well.
And a best-ever example of right sizing.
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