For twenty years of my working life the traditional top down food services model has prevailed.
A systems management approach is very different. Let’s begin by looking at the two dimensions to a systems approach.
- A systematic approach focuses upon design, planning and control of a food and beverage operation.
The second the management and operating systems within a food and beverage operation.
The traditional approach assumes the market is linear; there is a tendency to be over reliant upon the experience of key personal consequently very vulnerable to key people leaving. Business information flows are restricted to those who need to know. Management tend to take an intuitive view to the status of the business, to be reactive towards change, to be principally service driven and a propensity towards weak lines of accountability.
Systems approach is sensitive to changing market conditions, dependent upon experienced staff and good quantitative data, business information being readily available, proactive in nature, cost and service driven, but less vulnerable to key staff turnover. A systems ethos supports strong lines of accountability.
Pro’s and con’s
The traditional model viewed the business as a whole entity whereas a systems perspective is modular for example a system for food production, a system for food and beverage service. Traditionally the whole business was seen as a delivery system, the client was a passive recipient whereas a systems approach sees the client as a participant of the service process. Operational systems management is concerned with three components of the business.
- The management of materials
- The management of information
- The management of people (customers)
In fact they are three distinct systems within any food and beverage operation.
- The system for food production
- The system for delivery or the service sequence
- The system for customer management or the customer process
These three systems are tangible systems whose properties are known and can be defined. The three systems identified interlink to form the whole operation. In turn each of the three systems can be further broken down into their component parts for example, ‘purchasing and credit control’. The systems approach can be further clarified by reference to the operations hierarchy for instance;
- Skills and knowledge – Knowledge of food accompaniments, handling a spoon and fork
- Task – Group of skills, e.g. glass washing, stock taking
- Duty – Group of tasks, e.g. preparing bar, tables for service
- Method – Group of duties combined to achieve a particular service, e.g. silver service
- Operation – Combination of various methods, e.g. production. Service, billing, thus creating a complete system for the provision of food and beverages within a specific type of outlet
- Sector – Business environment in which the operation exists
For a foodservice operation, food production may be seen as a ‘hard’ system, which is expected to behave predictably. The customer process, however, may be seen as ‘soft’ system because it involves emotional reactions, personal values and attitudes and shifting expectations, which are personal rather than technical in construction. However, the service sequence contains characteristics of both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ systems. It is ‘hard’ in the technical and procedural aspects of service and ‘soft’ because there are aspects of it that are to do with interactions between staff and customers.
Food and beverage management, therefore, is concerned with the management of an operation, which is constructed from three identifiable operating systems that are interlinked: and each of these three systems is made up from a variety of subsystems. Understanding the characteristics of systems and the ways in which systems behave can help in the control of resources (systems inputs), efficient and effective operation (systems processes), and assure the achievement of the required objectives (systems outputs).
To summarise the cliché applies ‘customer experience’ determines business success.’