Posts tagged sample
Posts tagged sample
I worked at Carl’s Jr. as a teenager here in Tucson, AZ. Tucson is in the hot southwest American desert and we do not get much rain except for a short period around late July to early September when we get huge summer monsoons almost daily. The reason I explain this will become obvious soon.
The big fish story…
After working at Carl’s Jr. for two years, one summer I was cooking up some Carl’s Catch Fish sandwiches and we ran out of the preblanched patties. This was a bit of a pain because fish took longer to cook than anything else on the menu. To reduce the time it took to cook the fish we would pre-blanch the fish patties we intended to use for the day and then store them in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. Then when someone orders fish you cooked it freshly for an additional 2 mins 20secs . If you did not have preblanched fish it would take 6+ minutes to cook. This was not good as it meant fish took twice as long to cook and get out the door as everything else and would slow us down.
… about the one that got away…
On my lunch hour I went to the computer and tried to pull up the history of fish orders because it seemed like we were never having enough fish lately. We must not be blanching enough fish compared to our average sales. I looked at the average for fish orders and it turned out to be roughly what we prepared each day. So why was it that we were running out of fish lately? There weren’t any sales or advertisements to explain it.. So I seemed to be wrong. We were preparing the correct average amount of fish sold per day on a yearly average. I spent my whole lunch hour looking at the average sales for fish and found we had the right guess on how much to prepare.
The thing was we seemed to be wasting a lot of fish on some days and having way too little on others. A fish that was blanched and unsold had to be thrown away daily and fish that had to be cooked fresh slowed our order times. I couldn’t understand why fish sales would fluctuate widely enough compared to other menu items to explain this. There had to be a different explanation. So my initial experiment of looking at average sales and trying to adjust for it was a total failure.
… and the ugly truth…
So I was looking out the window watching the rain with the last minutes of my lunch ticking away and I had the weirdest thought… There was no way it could be right.
I thought, “What if people are buying more fish on rainy days?”.
So I wasn’t too confident on this thought given my failure going through the average sales before but sure enough by comparing weather data to sales data on rainy days we sold 2-3 times as much fish! Consistently, 2-3 times as much fish!
This was huge! The huge fish sales during rainy days during a 2 month period was throwing off the average for the whole year. This meant my average number I was preparing every day was way too much on dry days (most of the year) and way too little on rainy ones.
… until finally, the big catch!
By reducing the number of fish we blanch on dry days we cut our wasted fish by almost half and by blanching more fish on rainy monsoon days we cut order times by several minutes and had happier customers all around. Win, win, win! On a yearly basis this saved enough money they could easily afford the promotion and raise they gave me and still increase profits!
On rainy days we even found we could increase fish sales by suggesting it after greeting the customer. This never worked on dry days. This was good as they were more expensive than the Carl’s Jr. Famous Stars which at the time only cost 99c apiece! The proactive sales pitch increased the sales even more.
This experience taught me that the psychology of consumer sales is a very weird thing. You can’t base social buying behaviors on averages alone. Something as random and unpredictable as a rainstorm could change what customers order.
What are the potential reasons for this preference?
update, now a question of its own : Rain: Why might people prefer fish sandwiches on rainy days?
I have a theory. The type of customers they got was different on rainy days. In dry places, where people are not accustomed to rain, it really inconveniences them, so much as to change their usual eating place. Instead of going back home or to a better restaurant, people would be more eager to go to the nearest fast food place. Now, the sort of people who do not usually eat fast food, would be more likely to order fish, as it may be considered a lighter and healthier meal.
Operations Research is what it’s called. How to make Operations more efficient. You can approach it from the business side (money side) or from the systems side. Creating systems that help organizations work more efficiently and make more money. Systems can be computer systems, but more broadly it is collecting the right data and changing the work-flow, including computers and data when and where they will make a difference.