A taste of the future: transforming restaurant operations through simulation

A reserved sign on a table in a restaurant next to a place setting

The restaurant industry is highly competitive, and owners are continually looking for ways to streamline operations, enhance customer experiences, and boost profitability. Simulation modeling is one resource that can help them pursue these goals. By using it to create models of future eateries or even digital twins of actual restaurant operations, simulation modeling can revolutionize the way restaurants optimize their processes.

This blog post will explore the role of simulation modeling in restaurants and similar venues as well as the benefits it brings to the table. So, let’s get right into the six ways in which simulation modeling can be used to help a restaurant business.

Capacity planning

To meet consumer demand, the ideal quantity of kitchen equipment, tables, and chairs can be determined with the aid of simulation modeling. Managers can spot possible bottlenecks and make adjustments to maintain smooth operations by simulating various aspects like table sizes, customer preferences, and turnover rates.

Consider a fast-casual chain that sought to enhance its seating layout using simulation modeling. By inputting variables like table sizes, customer flow, and turnover rates, they could determine the most efficient dining area layout. As a result, the area would be more efficiently used, which would ease staff movement and improve the overall dining experience. The key to this is the AnyLogic Pedestrian Library, which is a simulation tool used to assess capacity and throughput as well as find and eliminate bottlenecks.

Menu optimization

To determine how menu changes may affect consumer demand, average ticket prices, and profitability, a simulation can be applied. Managers may decide what to offer and at what price point by simulating alternative menu selections and pricing methods. This could enable managers to improve customer satisfaction and overall profitability.

A McDonalds drive-through restaurant in the middle of a city

For example, a restaurant wants to introduce a new menu item. The owner can input factors including ingredient costs, preparation times, and customer demand patterns into a simulation model. This model can then simulate different scenarios, such as changing customer preferences or adjusting production capacity. Based on these simulations, the restaurant owner can assess the potential impact on kitchen workflow, staff requirements, and profitability.

McDonald’s was one such restaurant that faced some interesting challenges in terms of their menu, among other things, but by working with HAVI, a logistics company, they managed to overcome these.

Queue management

Restaurant managers can experiment with different scenarios, including various layouts and queue management techniques, through simulation modeling to reduce customer waiting times. By analyzing historical data on customer arrivals and service times, the model can determine the ideal number of cash registers or service stations required during peak hours. It can also evaluate the impact of different queue management strategies, like installing self-service kiosks or introducing mobile ordering, on reducing waiting times and improving customer satisfaction.

For instance, a neighborhood restaurant could employ simulation modeling to enhance their lunch service. By studying historical data and modeling various situations, they may be able to determine the ideal number of registers and stations, cutting down on waiting times and guaranteeing a seamless eating experience for their customers.

Staff scheduling

Optimizing staff schedules can be challenging due to fluctuating demand patterns. Managers can use simulation modeling to estimate the number of staff members needed during different times of the day, week, or year, considering variables like contrasting customer flows, meal preparation times, and workload distribution. This helps ensure that the restaurant is adequately staffed, avoiding long waiting times or overstaffing during slower periods.

When Domino’s was creating new store layouts, they also faced a challenge related to ensuring that the right amount of labor was available for these layouts.

A restaurant in the model shown with under-staffing on the left and a restaurant in the model shown with over-staffing on the right

Under-staffing and over-staffing in a Domino's restaurant

Supply chain management

Simulation modeling can aid in optimizing the supply chain by assessing the impact of disruptions, such as ingredient delays, on the overall operations of the restaurant or food chain. This allows managers to test different scenarios and identify strategies to mitigate risks.

Efficient supply chain management is vital for maintaining smooth operations in the restaurant industry. Simulation modeling helps restaurants optimize their supply chain by modeling the flow of ingredients from suppliers, transportation times, and order quantities. By accurately assessing such variables as delivery lead times and inventory management, restaurants can identify areas for improvement, reduce costs, and ensure a steady supply of high-quality ingredients.

Let’s assume a network of farm-to-table restaurants used simulation modeling to reduce costs and guarantee a steady supply of fresh ingredients. By simulating variants in ingredient ordering quantities and delivery schedules, they could optimize their supply chain, therefore reducing waste and enhancing the quality of their dishes.

Take a look at this Beer (alcoholic or non-alcoholic, your choice) Distribution Game developed by the AnyLogic team, which introduces the need for supply chain and network management. Use this model to try to minimize your costs.

Beer Distribution Game (source files available)

New concept evaluation

Finally, before investing in a new restaurant or expanding an existing one, simulation modeling can be used to evaluate the feasibility and profitability of the venture. By simulating customer traffic, revenue projections, and operating costs, business owners can make better-informed decisions.

Imagine that a café used simulation modeling to evaluate the impact of expanding their operating hours. By inputting data on customer traffic during specific time slots and assessing the associated costs, they were able to make an informed decision to extend opening hours, resulting in increased revenue during off-peak hours.

A powerful tool for the restaurant industry

The adoption of simulation modeling in the restaurant industry represents a fundamental shift in operational optimization and decision-making. From improving staffing efficiency and queue management to refining menu offerings and pricing strategies, simulation modeling enables restaurant owners to make data-driven decisions that increase profitability and customer satisfaction at the same time.

By harnessing the power of simulation modeling, restaurants can stay ahead in a highly competitive industry, ensuring ongoing success and growth in an ever-evolving market.

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