Not Just Fast Food — Efficient Food

The regional fast food chain Pal’s Sudden Service has 26 locations and a sterling reputation for making things convenient and fast for the customer. The reputation is well-earned; at peak flow, cars pull through the drive-through-only restaurant every 14 seconds. Meanwhile, the company’s operating income and inventory turnover are many times the industry averages, making for high financial returns and serving as a testament to the freshness of the product.

Pal Barger, the restaurant’s founder, and Thom Crosby, its CEO, kept the menu and the operations simple, designing the preparation area and processes with efficiency in mind. For instance, condiments are stored upside down for dispensing, and a person takes orders directly and translates them to the prep crew, eliminating electronic mistakes. Pal’s reputation for efficient reliability helps reinforce the process; because the order is almost always correct, customers leave the window without checking it, keeping the flow of cars moving.

Read more about how the company’s leaders used lean techniques to eliminate waste, reduce human error and simplify processes in Rebecca Goldberg and Professor Elliott N. Weiss’ article “The Secret Sauce in Pal’s Sudden Service’s Success? Streamlining.” in the Darden School of Business/Washington Post “Case in Point” series.

About the Faculty

Elliott N. Weiss

Weiss is a top authority in many aspects of manufacturing, including inventory control, manufacturing planning and scheduling, manufacturing project management, materials management, service industry operations, total productive maintenance and lean systems.

Weiss is the author of numerous articles in the areas of production management and operations research and has extensive consulting... Learn More