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The Struggle Between Art and Efficiency

Restaurant Management Art & EfficiencyGreat Lakes pizza, on Chicago’s north side, has been getting A LOT of press lately.  The tiny pizzeria has only been around for a little over a year, but in that time the reputation of owners Nick Lessins and Lydia Esparza has catapulted Great Lakes into one of the hottest pizza joints in all of Chicago.

Their sudden fame hasn’t affected the artistic approach to pizza making that made Great Lakes famous in the first place.  Every single pie is hand crafted by Mr. Lessins.  All of their ingredients are sourced from premium, mostly organic suppliers.  The reviews by Chicago foodies range between glowing and ecstatic.

There’s just one problem.  On many nights, a lot of people who want Great Lakes pizza don’t get one, or they end up waiting a very long time for one.  This has resulted in profanity-laced reviews on sites like Yelp complaining that the lack of service at Great Lakes nullifies any great pizza, no matter how close to a work of art it is.

The owners seem to take it all in stride, and in pursuit of quality they haven’t sped up the service process at all.  Every pizza is still a work of art.  This raises an interesting conflict for the food service industry, and indeed for any business: where do you draw the line between art and efficiency?

Especially in food service, customer service is about half of the equation for success.  And while a beautifully prepared meal is the other cornerstone of your business, you can hardly afford to sacrifice service for the food.  Striking a balance between quality and efficiency is a necessary compromise if you want your business to grow.  Some people are satisfied just making a perfect pizza every time, and if that’s your disposition, then by all means follow the Great Lakes model.  I’m sure they’re making plenty of money, and I’m sure they will for some time to come, despite the bad reviews from unhappy customers on Yelp.

But for most businesses, the Great Lakes model just doesn’t cut it.  Let’s face it, we can’t all be artists.  That means you have to survive using other skills, including training and managing people to make your operation run more smoothly.  That doesn’t mean your food can’t be transcendent.  It merely means you know how to teach 5 people to make your pizzas, even if they don’t make them quite as perfectly as you.

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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