Vapiano through ”Outside-In”-lenses

If you haven’t noticed. I do like Vapiano’s concept. What is propably not known, is that I like it for numerous different reasons. Besides the food and atmosphere, Vapiano offers me quite extraordinary opportunities to explain and use CEMMethod’s techniques to explain what Outside-In thinking is.

Let’s compare Vapiano with any other ordinary restaurant in Helsinki city center through the customer experience during a normal visit.

General apperance and approaching the restaurant

Most of the restaurants know that location and general apperance are important factors on how to get customers pop in. Vapiano is no different.

Terrace looks comfortable, people are enjoying life and the location is carefully selected to be quite central to include also random walkers and regular foot traffic.

Entrance and the first moment of truth

Getting inside Vapiano is little different than in a normal restaurant, as the process is different. Instead of thinking in terms of tables as resources, people at Vapiano seem to look at queques at service stations an availability of seats for diners. I haven’t tested how the concept works at lunch time, but so far we have been able to just walk into the restaurant, be greeted at the door and given our Vapiano card – with instructions on how to proceed to order our meal. Never have we had to wait for queque to clear up or waiter to come up – and direct us to an available table.

Ordering the foor and the menu – second ( + few other moments ) moment of truth

In a normal restaurant one usually has to wait for some time to the waiter to come, bring in the menus and then wait even more for the waiter to come back, before the order is taken to the kitschen. If you are having a good time with your friends, this does not matter – but during a rush ours when waiters are extremely busy or when you are in a hurry, this can be a drag.

Vapiano thinks things differently. Menus are small thick paper sheets, which are available all around the restaurant. Instead of finding the waiter and waiter taking the order to the kitschen, you decide what you want to eat – and go to the kitschen to orde the food to be prepared right in front of your eyes.

This works extremely well for dishes that take only few minutes to prepare: pastas, salads, antipasti. As pizza takes more time, one can go sit in the table and wait for the pizza to get ready.

Amount of service stations are most likely modelled through process analysis and trial and error – taking into account how much each recipe takes time to make – and how many concurrent customers they need to have the capacity to serve, before queque times become intolerable.

In this you see how the design of menus, preparation of ingredients into servable / usable portions, restaurant capacity in seating, capacity in service stations and number of staff play all an important role to make the system as a whole work together.

Waiting for the food to be prepared, moment of truth three

Waiting for the food in normal restaurant is usually spent nibbling bread, drinking water or other refreshments – and talking with your companions. There are no cues on when your food gets ready – and how much time you need to still wait. Open kitschens provide visibility to see people working, but you don’t know whose order they are making.

Vapiano is different.

Making the food happens literally in your face. You see everything that goes into the dish and strangely enough that is enough to keep you entertained at least for some time. Pasta dish gets prepared in less than ten minutes, but it feels like it was just a snap.

Enjoying the food and paying the food, moments of truth four plus

As said before, there are no reservable tables in Vapiano – so as you get the food, you and people with you can select which ever place is available. For large groups this could be problematic, except that Vapiano’s tables seem to designed in a way that they could house even large groups together quite nicely. Similarly if you are eating alone or with someone, tables are so large – that you don’t feel your private space violated, even though someone is sitting close by.

Even though you do have to carry your own food, waiters will pick up used dishes away as soon as you are done. Compared to a normal restaurant you don’t need to wait for the waiter to bring you the cheque and cash you, as you do it by the door with the Vapiano-card you were given when entering the restaurant, and which holds the information on what you ordered and consumed. This guarantees that there are available and clean places in the restaurant for eaters even in busy hours.

Queque theory and theory of constraints allows you to calculate in what time service stations can/will produce customers needing a place to sit down, optimizing the whole process and experience for good throughput.

On overall you get almost the fast food experience in terms of time and ease of use, but get great food made in front of you with good ingredients – for affordable price.

Who wouldn’t like that?

Next time: Creating a succesfull customer outcome map for Vapiano?

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