Lean Food Service in Korea Factory Cafeteria

I’ve been a fan of Korean food for a long time, but now I’m also a fan of Korean kitchenware. I’ve always thought the steel chopsticks were particularly a good idea. Here’s my dinner on a washable, reusable dinner tray used in a cafeteria in a factory in Korea.

Why is this Lean? The typical process for the “lunch line to dishwasher” cafeteria value stream is:
1. Get tray
2. Get plates
3. Get food
4. Eat food
5. Return plates
6. Return tray
7. Wash plates
8. Wash tray
The Lean process used at this factory cafeteria in Korea is:
1. Get tray
2. Get food
3. Eat food
4. Return tray
5. Wash tray
This way instead of wasting a tray (which is most often not dirty at all) and plates, bowls, etc. the kitchen just washes one utensil, the metal tray-dish. What a good idea!

I’d like to call special attention to the Korean steel chopsticks. They are reusable unlike the softwood type you get in teriyaki restaurants which come in paper or plastic packages and need to be thrown away at the end. Waste! Get with the program, rest of the chopstick-using world!

It may be only seconds saved each day by Lean thinking like this, but over the years it adds up, especially if you keep looking for time and energy saving kaizen ideas like these everywhere.
As an additional benefit, the shallow sections only fit so much food so you stay “lean” by eating this way.

Mmm, good!


  1. Chuck Yorke

    December 12, 2005 - 11:54 am

    Excellent examples of removing non value-added steps and waste elimination

  2. Anonymous

    February 6, 2009 - 12:57 am

    And the idea is to eat food fast?

  3. Jon

    February 6, 2009 - 8:38 am

    No, the idea is to reduce the time and effort it takes to handle and clean the dishes. The value-added time is preparing the food, the non value-added time is handling plates, bowls and trays.

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