Taco Bell Case Study

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Case Study – Taco Bell

Design, Layout & Process Choice
“Design for Transformation”

In 1999, three out of every four Mexican fast-food meals purchased in the United States were made from one company – Taco Bell. However, this market dominance may never have come about unless the company had not transformed its operations throughout the 1980’s.

In the early 1980’s, Taco Bell was typical of this kind. It was essentially a job shop operation. Nearly all food production was carried out on site: -

foodstuffs were prepared from their raw state;
food items such as ground beef for tacos were cooked for a period of several hours in vats; –guacamole and other sauces were made-up;
beans were washed, cleaned and cooked;

Once these items were ready for sale, they were then assembled in response to a customer order. This meant that wait time at the cash register was 105 seconds on average, an even slower during peak periods.

This type of operations led to a number of management challenges. Staff had to be scheduled and organised in shifts so that they mainly prepared food items and cleaned the unit during slack periods, whilst they assembled orders and served customers during busy times. It was estimated that the restaurant manager spent an hour each day working on his crew schedule in order to match labour supply as closely as possible to potential demand, and thereby meet the company’s cost targets. Food cost control was also a priority, which meant that a great deal of time and effort went into ensuring no menu item was prepared in too small or too large a quantity. But the complexity of this operation, lead to quite wide variations in food quality, both within single units and between units in the chain. This was not helped by inconsistency in the quality of raw materials, which were mainly sourced locally.

The emphasis on in-house food production meant that that the ratio of kitchen to...
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