What Can MSPs Learn From Fast Food Drive-Thrus?

MSPs learn from fast food

Most people are surprised when I say that a fast food restaurant and an MSP have elements in common. What I mean by that is that there are synergies in what the two businesses do and what they’re trying to achieve. Let me give you two examples.

When you go into a fast food restaurant – especially one that has drive-thru – have you ever noticed everything is very close together? Those restaurants are designed so most everything is only a few steps away from the register. The goal is never to have to take more than 2 or 3 steps to get what you need.

Refined Processes Save on Labor, Increase Profitability

Why is that? Many years ago, when I worked in KFC for a few years, I learned that it takes a second for every step an employee has to take. That doesn’t sound like a lot, right? While in the MSP world we talk about events in terms of minutes – fast food outlets talk in terms of seconds. Their KPIs are driven around Speed of Service (SoS) – in seconds. When you aggregate all those single seconds, and multiply it by the amount of orders per year, and by the amount of restaurants a brand has – are you with me? The outcome is simple … let’s say they can save an average of 1 second per transaction. That means KFC can save about 208 days (5,0000 hours) worth of labour each day – just by reducing the time to serve a customer by 1 second.

What does this have to do with an MSP? It’s pretty simple. Within an MSP – just like in fast food restaurant – our biggest asset is also our biggest cost – labor.

Is Labor Impacting Your Profitability?

For every minute we can reduce from the time spent by our engineers per ticket, we are looking at close to a $3,000 improvement to our bottom line. To knock a minute off our response time, there are many areas we can look at – from simplification and ease of creating a ticket to automating the communication to our customers and many, many other steps in between.

As an industry, and thanks to Microsoft’s appreciation for the power of the Linux CLI – we’ve been able to automate and script many elements of tasks that used to take an engineer many minutes or even hours down to seconds using PowerShell.

Now it’s time to look at our teams and our tools to ensure they are as responsive as possible, even such simple elements as not needing to flick back and forth between many different tools or screens to accomplish their work.

Consistency is the Key. How Do MSPs Get There?

Back to fast food. Let’s talk about brands. As a consumer, we take consistency as these restaurants for granted. You can go into one of the many thousands of outlets across the country – and you will find the burger or another food item will taste the same in LA as it tastes in NYC.

How do they do it? Once again, it’s pretty simple. They have processes and procedures down pat, and they are able to deliver a burger or other product pretty easily. They can even roll out a new product across the country and achieve that consistency. If you’ve never worked in the industry, you probably don’t know that staff only gets a few minutes of on-the-job training to make a burger – or a new product. That is because the steps have already been ironed out, tested and proven to be repeatable (and easy).

Have you ever given 10 engineers a problem, and in return, been given 10 different ways to resolve it? If you gave the ingredients of a new burger to 10 kitchen staff and say make the burger – you will get 10 different version of the same burger – and none may be wrong, but they sure won’t be consistent.

It is similar for an MSP. We need standard processes so we can scale and deliver consistency. I have seen many MSPs force customers to use brand X switches and routers, or brand Y desktops – but why? The reason is that the inefficiencies in supporting different brands. Many MSPs do that achieve the same sort of repeatable processes as burger chains – working to train each level on their preferred brand so they can quickly address customer problems and deal with some day-to-day tasks as onboarded engineers more quickly, thus getting their utilization up to par sooner.

The next time you are standing in line at KFC, think about how simply tweaks – fewer minutes per ticket, fewer tools, better processes – could help you win the MSP wars.

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