(This is the final post on the observed business operations of the 2012 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.)
I am absolutely infatuated with the speed at which customers are served at the concession stands at the Masters. Augusta National goes a long way to provide many reasons for patrons to not be dissuaded from getting food while on the grounds – in addition to quick service, the stands are conveniently located and the prices are embarrassingly low.
There are two types of concession stand structures at Augusta National – temporary and permanent. While they operate in mostly the same manner the photos are from the temporary structures.
The above photograph is at the entrance. There are three main customer walkways – one at the far left against the wall, and two running through the center with patrons flanked by white “islands” of shelves.
The patron lines form behind the entrance. It appears that there will be a significant delay in getting food, but it isn’t that bad. We’ll see why in a moment.
(Also please bear in mind that the photos are from practice round days – cameras are not allowed during tournament play – and so not all concessions lines were staffed because patron demand was lower.)
If the lines were to stretch out a little longer than normal, an operator will take a sign out to the lines and indicate the wait times. One thought I had here is that if the lines are backed up, shouldn’t this operator be better served helping to get customers through the line faster instead of telling them how long it will take?
Once you get inside, you have banks of shelves on both sides of you. Each one contains the same items – sweets, chips, pre-made sandwiches (egg salad, turkey club, ham, pimento cheese), hot sandwiches (biscuits early in the morning, BBQ sandwiches after 10 a.m.), and drinks.
Even the band booster concession stands at high school football games can’t beat these prices. Cold sandwiches from $1.50-2.50. Chips and sweets for a buck. Domestic beer for $3. Water bottles and pops for $1.50. Wow.
From the point you arrive in the concession stand, it’s self-service from all of the stocked shelves.
Drinks operators on each side of the line set out cups of beer, pop, lemonade, and sports drink. It’s not exactly a drinks kanban but because the drinks are consumed so quickly and the operators are watching the consumption from the counters they can gauge the rate at which they need to replenish.
An import beer is offered as well – for $3.75 – and is distinguished from domestic beer by use of a green cup (see top picture). The colors make it easy for cashiers to properly price items and prevent errors.
By the patron grabbing what they need and going, wait times are significantly reduced. Patrons take only as much time as they themselves need to get items instead of waiting for operators (and sometimes the beer line backs up but it is very infrequent and delay not significant).
Now patrons are led to the next stoppage point, the checkout counters. The registers are in banks of ten at the end of the lines, but they are not physically connected to the lines. This permits freedom to move to the next available register. If they were connected, patrons would be constrained by the number of patrons in front of them and the speed at which a single cashier could cycle through purchases.
Instead, patrons with items in hand will wait for the next available cashier, who will indicate availability by waving to customers ready to get back to their seats. The concession stand pacesetter is the cashier, which is at the end of the entire process and therefore dictates the speed of the rest of the process upstream…which is ideally how to optimize flow.
Very quickly, once inside the concession stand, patrons get their items and pay and leave. This is an amazing yet simple process that features very few opportunities for delay. With 50,000 people on the grounds for anywhere from 6-12 hours, a lot of folks will need served and this process is quite efficient for the patrons.
What you see at most fast food restaurants is orders placed at cash registers and counter workers tasked with receiving the order requests and obtaining the food items themselves. At Augusta National, the primary ordering and collecting constraint is how quickly you can gather your items. The cycle times are incredible.
So how are they able to do this? LOTS of pull systems and minimized delays from waiting and transportation, and one very significant resource abundance.
Within each of the islands there are operators tasked with restocking shelves or pouring drinks so they’re ready to be taken away by customers. Items are placed on patron-facing shelves and not doled out individually based on patron orders – that adds extra wasteful steps to the process. Instead, customers take what they need and operators replenish only what is taken.
Signage on the back of the shelves indicates to operators what’s missing and what needs to be replenished. The above shelves weren’t being used on this practice day but they were certainly being used during the tournament days. It’s easy for the operator to tell what needs refilled through visual indication – low quantities means add more to the shelves.
Augusta is pretty warm in early April, so drinks fly off the counters and continuous replenishment is necessary. There are a lot of operators tasked with filling cups but the drinks don’t remain on the counters long because customers are always zipping by and taking what they need.
The abundant resource available to Augusta National is people. There is no shortage of temporary help who put in long hours to make the Masters tournament week successful (Augusta’s high schools are out for spring break during Masters week, and workers get some pretty nice benefits post-tournament). As needed, the management will throw more workers at high-volume concession stands. Fortunately the operators are not tasked with just one job, and can flex up and down the lines to maintain shelf quantities or drinks levels. Part of the reason customers can get through the stand so quickly is the abundance of operators making sure the shelves don’t stock out.
Unfortunately not every organization or business has this luxury, so it’s important to figure out how to optimize operator usage so that customers are served accurately and quickly through minimized wasteful activity.
Speaking of wasteful activity, here is another minor nit I have.
Cups are brought into the stand via golf cart (special cargo-handling golf carts are zipping all over the course, helping replenish supplies at concession stands by pulling from an on-site supply warehousing location). The cup boxes, like other items and supplies, are set in the middle of the islands.
Operators will pull cups from the boxes and slide the stacks into the in-stand cup dispensers…but then will pull cups from the dispensers as they are used for beer and other drinks. Putting the cups into the dispensers before eventually pulling them back out again is wasteful – how can drink cups be presented to the operators so they need only touch the cups one time? Can cups be pulled straight from the box and be immediately used for filling drinks (thereby avoiding the dispenser)?
Also, by serving so many patrons with pre-packaged items, there’s a lot of food inventory needed each day but not a great place to keep it all. It’s not feasible to drive the cargo carts back and forth to replenish everything, based on the cargo space available on the cart and the quantities required by the stands. Fortunately, these items WILL be consumed. It’s not like these boxes and cases are lying around collecting dust.