What can the E.R. Learn from Olive Garden?

Posted on Tue, May 13, 2014

breadsticksBy Ken Stackhouse, MBA, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, ENP-BC

Recently I overheard the leaders at our Christus communities use the analogy of sit-down restaurants versus drive through and chains like Chik-fil-A with the concept of service and satisfaction in relation to Door-to-Provider (D2P) services. This got me thinking of discussions I have had in the past around the similarities of restaurants and the ER. Surprisingly, they are quite similar.

First, if you have ever used the EMR MedHost you may find it interesting to note its very origin is due in part to a serendipitous stop at a restaurant. The story goes something like this: an ER doc was driving through town and stopped at a well-known restaurant. Because of the restaurant’s popularity, the food was good, but the wait-time was terrible. One year later, he drove through town and stopped at the restaurant again. Same great food, but this time something was different. Instead of the same terrible wait time from his previous visit, miraculously, the doctor experienced a wait-time of nearly zero!

D2PNaturally, being a doctor, he inquired about the 180-degree difference and learned that the restaurant had recently implemented a seat tracking system to cut wait times and create more satisfied patrons. The doc met with the company that created the tracking system and voila the concept and framework for MedHost was born.

Next, think of the last time you went to a sit-down restaurant.  How long did you wait to be greeted by the wait staff and receive your glass of water? At 30 seconds, you’re doing fine. At 2 minutes you realize you haven't seen the wait staff but you’re still engrossed in your conversation with family/friends.  At 4 minutes you’re not paying attention to the conversation and are now actively looking for your wait staff and water.

Restaurants know that 90-120 seconds is about the maximum time to greet customers before you begin to lose their confidence.

Here’s a link to a 2010 Masters study that has some interesting facts on consumer behaviors and time preferences. The time perceptions portion starts on page 21; but, for your convenience, I’ve pasted an excerpt on preference for wait time from the document below.

Beverages to be served: 2 minutes

Lunch to be served: 12 minutes

Check being dropped off: 3 minutes after dessert or coffee being dropped off

Restaurants view the visit in 3 stages (some break out 6) that may seem familiar:

Pre-process stage-arrival to order

In-process stage-order and consuming

Post-process stage-check settlement to departing

Most customers are "more upset when a delay occurred during the pre-process or post process stage of the dining experience than when the delay occurred during the in-process stage, even though the delay was of the same length of time in each stage."

So, from a consumer perspective visiting the ER really is like going out to dinner. And just like restaurants must adopt new tools and technologies to meet their customers’ needs, so too do we as healthcare providers.

Enjoy your dinner!

Ken StackhouseAbout Ken Stackhouse: With over 30 years of experience in healthcare, Ken Stackhouse has been a Divisional Director of Clinical Services (DDCS) and ED nurse practitioner for EmCare since 2007. Prior to joining EmCare, Ken worked as Director of Nurses in Patient Care and Emergency Services, EMS Education and Emergency Services, Director of Day Surgery/Endoscopy, Trauma Program Manager, Staff Registered Nurse (RN) and Firefighter/Paramedic. Ken holds a masters’ degrees in business and nursing. He is dual trained and Board certified in family practice and as an emergency nurse practitioner. Ken works with the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a content expert for the Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certification. Ken lives his motto, “Make it a great day!” by helping improve quality, efficiency and value for EmCare client hospitals.

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