Once again on a bright beautiful Sydney Sunday morning, I find myself stuck in a melee of early morning yum cha aficionados outside a local favourite. Once again, I find myself getting annoyed at the chaos, the confused milling crowds, the lack of clear procedure, and the horrid screeching of ticket numbers over crappy sound systems. (And yes, as I get older, I get much less tolerant.)

Yum cha restaurants have been going for probably centuries. They obviously have their food production and delivery processes down pat. They have a process for handing out those numbered tickets and chaperoning guests to their tables. I assume they would also have the behind-the-scene payroll and staffing processes sorted. Everything is working except for the all-important first contact.

If you own a yum cha restaurant, here’s one really simple idea to improve your first contact experience – ditch the cheap sound system and get a nice big LED number display.

This immediately solves the problem of having to scream it out in different languages and dialects. Everyone can see the number so they won’t be crowding to ask the maitre de because they have not heard a number.

Make the LED a big one, and mount it up high. And while you are at it, how about a big clear sign that says: “Get a number here and wait for it to be displayed there”. That sets out the process clearly and simply.

You may have noticed we have just borrowed a successful process used by delis and applying it to a restaurant. Some crowd management (and chairs) would also help. Some of the popular restaurants are probably breaking occupational health and safety rules by having punters pack stairwells and entry vestibules (which are of course fire exits). Think about crowd management techniques used at airports...

As with any business that is based on tested and known set processes and best practices, it is easy to forget to take a step back and see the business for what it really is. When was the last time you stood back and looked at your business?