Is Little Caesar’s Lean?

By Ron Pereira Published on March 7th, 2011

A few weeks ago we discussed whether the use of a dishwasher was lean or full of waste

Well, last night I needed to pick up some Little Caesar’s pizzas for my soccer team.  I needed to order several pizzas and wondered how long it would take. 

When I placed my order it was clear they didn’t have enough “finished goods” on hand so the young lady pulled a few trays (see image) from what looked to be a semi-finished goods supermarket.  She then placed these into the oven right behind the rack.

A few minutes later I had all the hot cheese pizzas my 6 and 7 year old girls could eat. 

My question is this.  Do you think the approach Little Caesar’s takes to fulfill customer demand is in harmony with lean thinking principles or would you handle it differently if you were in charge of that company?

What do you think?

  1. Trey Williams

    March 7, 2011 - 2:09 pm

    I would say it is most definitely lean in nature. I assume they throw very few pizzas away at the end of the day and since their customers get what they want quickly and cheap they are doing things right. Of course some may argue how good the product is but for situations like soccer parties not sure they can be beat.

  2. Becky

    March 7, 2011 - 7:25 pm

    LOVE the $5 pizza and do think they are extremely efficient in how they run things.

  3. Anthonie Jakobs

    March 8, 2011 - 7:46 am

    Lean starts with the customer: give the customer what he wants, only when he wants it and only at the quality he wants. So in this case number one and two were clearly met. Remains the question if any concession was done to the quality of the pizza’s. The story does not comment on that, but if yoy can secure good quality with storing half finished pizza’ in a rack for a couple of hours it is fine for me: you have met all your customers requirements. Storage is often waste, but not when it is a deliberate choice to enable quick service in cases like this, Again, provided that you do not sacrifice quality. And even when you end up disposing pizza’s in the bin at the end of the day (I guess they can limit that pretty well); trade off’s are OK as long as they are well balanced and fit into your business model.

    • Ron Pereira

      March 8, 2011 - 7:51 am

      Hi Anthonie, regarding the quality… all I can say is the girls sure gobbled it all up! And I don’t mind the pizza either… is it the best out there? Far from it. But it does a great job for situations like this.

  4. Sunil M

    March 8, 2011 - 8:26 am

    Looks like Little Caesar’s has figured out where the chain breaks. Given the lead time in making the pizza and the response time required by the customer, they have figured out the best location for their supermarket (strategic controlled buffer). I am assuming that given the popularity of their pizza’s these supermakets are replenished pretty often without impacting the quality.

  5. KDM

    March 8, 2011 - 2:57 pm

    Perhaps it’s just the picture, but it appears that entire rack was pepperoni pizzas. If that is the case, I believe they could improve their operations by further optimizing their ‘supermarket’. Little Ceasar has a high variability, unstable demand market. If that rack was truly all pepperoni – why did they commit to all those pepperoni’s? Stock the pizza at the ‘cheese’ stage and your flexibility just increased dramatically. If the picture is inaccurate, I would again challenge if they need that many pizzas just sitting there, hoping for customers. Looks like a lot of WIP.

  6. Ron Amundson

    April 17, 2011 - 5:00 pm

    Pizza is filled with WIP…. The trick is getting the chemistry correct, such that dough and sauce can be WIP for many days and remain consistent. A lot of ops even batch skins, albeit such is trickier as its harder to get consistency over a period of time.

    I wonder if it would be possible to OPF pizza… lots of upfront chemistry would certainly be needed. Assuming such could be worked out, WIP could go to near zero, but I wonder how such an op could respond to peak demand?

  7. David

    February 10, 2012 - 12:22 am

    KDM, the reason why they prep so many pepperoni pizzas is because it’s the highest selling menu item. Plus, they have a Point Of Sale (POS) software system that records sales and breaks down an average of how many quantities of each item they will probably sell. Many pizzerias have that, although very few use the software to that degree.

    Also, LC doesn’t really cook to order. It’s a limited menu so employees can prep and slam out the orders.

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