Starter Pack

How a restaurant chain uses SCRUM to change how we eat

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to Cosmo, a pan-Asian restaurant in Sheffield. It was a different experience for me. You book your table for a certain time, and you have an hour and a half at the restaurant, during which time there’s a fixed-price menu and a fixed-price drink per person. There is a buffet of food and you eat as much as you like, as many plates as you like.

However, I’m not plugging Cosmo – there are other restaurants. I hear Jimmy Spice does the same – there will be others.

What I’m interested in is the difference in the experience between this kind of restaurant and traditional restaurants.

As I sat and ate at Cosmo with my family, I realised that this is an attempt to disrupt the traditional restaurant model. Cosmo makes its money from the volume, because instead of having a table taken up for the entire evening, it fills them up in shifts – six to seven-thirty, seven-thirty to nine, nine to ten-thirty – so they get three times the number of people in. They also have huge amounts of tables.

In a traditional restaurant you usually book a start time because you want to make sure you’ve got a table. They probably know roughly how long you’re going to be there. When you arrive, you look at the menu, order the food. All the prices are there, so as you arrive you don’t know what the bill’s going to be. Once you finish, you pay and leave. Someone comes and serves you at your table. It isn’t fixed cost. It isn’t fixed delivery, because you order what they’ve got, and they cook it while you’re there.

At Cosmo, it’s the other way around. There’s a start time and a stop time, which is a very SCRUM thing – a sprint. During that time the whole set of food (already cooked) is available for you to choose from, and each time you get a plate, it’s like a sprint. You fill the plate, go back to your chair, and eat. Then someone clears the plate away for you, and you go away for another plate of food. It’s fixed price, fixed time, variable food. And it’s all pre-cooked, ready for you to eat.

Lets summarise.

  • It has a product backlog (“All the food is available already cooked.”)
  • It has sprints (“One plate at a time!”)
  • It has time-boxed iterations (“You have a table for 90 minutes.”)
  • Cost is fixed, scope is not (“Eat all you like for £12.95.”)

So I’ll leave you with this thought: Where else have you seen the key SCRUM methods – fixed time, variable scope, etc. – take over from more traditional ways of doing things? Taxis, laundry services, ironing services, cleaning services?