When lunch at Andhra Bhawan taught me the smallest ingredient in the business’s big revenues

Our Sundays are dedicated to experimental meals- Expensive, Road side, State bhawan or chef’s special, whatever the heart desires that particular Sunday.

This particular weekend we craved good South Indian and so we began our journey to the small 75 seater state run canteen in Lutyens Delhi. Now I must admit, this was not our first outing to Andhra Bhawan, and maybe thats why, this time past the steaming sambhar, mouth watering biryani, pooris and sitaphal subzi, I actually saw why we had a quarterly craving for this non air conditioned, all-you-can-eat thali joint: Consistency.

One of the smallest and unmeasurable drivers in business is the ability to give its customer’s A-Class experience every time they visit. While new business is important, its always the existing customer that makes up the bigger sales pie for most businesses.

Every time I head to Andhra Bhawan I know, what I am in for and yet look forward to it every single time. Here’s why:

  1. Clear role division- When you sit down to eat, you notice that each person walking around the room has a clear task – to serve you a particular item, clean the table , refill your thali or to ensure your ordered meal reaches the right table. In the corporate world, this not only removes the whole blame game but also adds clear responsibility to each person.
  2. Roving Eye Manager – Even at a small eatery like the Bhawan, there is one manager only observing and ensuring that each food item is being circulated well, each server is paying attention to the 40 odd tables and that no time is lost in between customers. This role is very important, especially in large businesses, as the only task of this manager is to observe the flaws in the system and fix them. Something that can save big companies big losses by nipping operational problems in the bud.
  3. Method in Madness- As you queue up outside the entrance of this eating joint, you realise how fabulously the 100 odd waiting customers are led to their respective lines and engaged. Patrons continuously keep repeating the same message for the benefit of every new queue joiner and that is to take a token and await their number. The token line leads you to the cashier who takes your order and money so that post finishing your meal you don’t waste time leaving the table. Processes and clear flow charts of how tasks are to be carried out help not only save time but also maximise productivity on the group level.
  4. Time Management- Would you believe if I told you that on an average each customer takes 18-20 minutes from when they sit on the table to when they finish their meal? ( That too with 3 refills ) The caterers have brought the time spent by each eater to this optimum time by ensuring fast service on the floor, shorter turn around time by the kitchen and most importantly keeping the menu limited to 7 items at any given time. This not only makes the choice easier for customers but ensures that in every hour they can serve almost 200 people in a 75 seater cafe. I am sure you can do the math on how much more they earn than a regular eatery their size.
  5. Know your expertise- Despite the multi cuisine joints favored by most today, the Bhawan has chosen to stick to its limited and yet unique menu. Diversifying is not always a good idea until the business has mastered one vertical. Growth does not always come from expansion

Now it may not be a Fortune 500 listed company, but if a company was to build their business on the framework of this canteen, there is nothing stopping it from topping the list.


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