Porcini’s Pronto: “Great Italian cuisine without the wait! ” Porcini was opened in 1969 as a family-owned restaurant chain and its business was successful with 4% profit margin.
Porcini’s was renowned with its attention to quality and price premium was relatively small compared to its quality and artful presentation. Porcini’s was able to maintain its high product and service quality mainly because it was a family-owned restaurant chain which gave considerable amount of control and of its safe approach on company expansion decisions.However, the management was also viewed as go-slow and comparing to its competitors like Olive Garden and other full-service chain restaurants like Denny’s, Porcini’s brand recognition was much lower. The U. S.
restaurants industry had three major segments: fast food, single location full-service restaurants, and full-service chain restaurants. Porcini’s senior management came up with a Pronto concept which could possibly open up a new area which no one has entered yet.Key features of the Pronto concept included locations at interstate highway exits, Porcini’s quality food and service with faster turnover of tables, and limited beer and wine selection. Main competitors would be fast food chain which has been operating along the interstate systems for decades and specifically targeting for travelers, and also full-service chain restaurants like Denny’s. It will be critical to come up with a clear differentiator to its competitors, on both quality and service, and position itself against them.Chef Molise was taking it very serious on developing a special Pronto menu which would be less extensive with slightly lower price than Porcini’s traditional menu. Also, Halloran, who was Porcini’s HR director, put significant amount of effort onto recruiting the right people and form a “Pathfinder Team” with 3 or 4 outstanding Porcini’s employees at each new Pronto’s location. One full week of training and indoctrination in the rapid, quality service strategy and its implementation elements would be given.
On the hiring side, it was a serious one. Pronto job applicants would have to pass several screens which include interviews with HR, then Pathfinder Team, and the manager. And a personality assessment test was given. It would seem logical and make sense to put focus on creating a customized menu, hiring the right people, and form a team with existing outstanding employees to bring current best practices to the new restaurants. However, it might be in the wrong direction or overkill sometimes.For the customized menu for Pronto, it was basically a stripped-down version of traditional Porcini’s menu, so what differentiated it from Porcini’s? And why customers should come to Pronto which had less menu choices, and not Porcini’s? Even though it’s a faster service didn’t mean customers would accept lower food quality, even just a slight one. And most importantly, Porcini’s didn’t ask if it mattered to them. On getting the right people for Pronto restaurants, was it actually a good idea to form a team with existing employees, while the business nature was much different?Porcini’s focused heavily on food and service quality, where Pronto focus on quick service experience without sacrificing much food and service quality.
It would be doubtful if employees could switch their practice so easily and quickly. If they could not, imagine how it might impact the new hires in the team. In order to make sure Porcini’s Pronto could maintain the same level of quality of food and service, a customer questionnaire system was created to collect information on customer satisfaction.The idea was great and it offered a discount card to customers who took the questionnaire, in order to bring up questionnaire completion rate and encourage repeat visits. However, the entire questionnaire focused only on food and service quality like meal quality, courtesy and efficiency of server, restaurant cleanliness etc.
, with almost no questions around the time for taking orders, food serving, and pay bills etc. Also, questions like “are you traveling or live in the neighborhood? ” could give a sense of what were the customer segments and did it align with the targeting customers originally.In addition, it should ask the customer to rank the importance of the factors, or simply ask the most important thing mattered to them e. g. Food, service, time, place etc. Without customers telling the importance of each factor, Porcini would have no clue on what to be focused on. Another set of metrics to be collected would be metrics around internal operations e.
g. how long to seat a customer and take her order, to prepare a typical entree, and so forth. This could be done by having secret shoppers for instance, and it would be valuable information.After all, the Pronto concept was to offer “Great Italian cuisine without the wait”, if Porcini could not guarantee acceptable table turnover time, success could not be claimed. In order to grow the business, there were three options: company-owned, franchising, and syndication.
First of all, what do we want to focus on? At the very beginning, Pronto should not be expanded too quickly before it could find out and establish the winning strategy. The first few restaurants were crucial and steps should take slow.Also, full control should be obtained otherwise it could easily go out of track. Also, the failure rate of franchising was pretty big. Porcini’s could not afford to have restaurants closed down and affected its brand name. Syndication could give Porcini’s full control on restaurant operations. It would also be easier to get a good location as prime undeveloped locations were mostly owned by investors.
However, upfront costs were high. At this point like a testing phase, it would be better to take a slower and less costly approach before Pronto concept proved itself to be success.Company-owned would be the best option to start with and Porcini’s should consider franchising and syndication after seeing profits from the Pronto restaurants and also a reliable standards could be come up which could be applied quick to many restaurants. To conclude, the Pronto concept was aimed at a market space where no one had entered before and Porcini’s wanted to claim this space. However, an important question to ask would be why no one entered this space in the first place? Or did anyone entered but failed?It seems that in order to deliver good quality of food and service while making it a “Pronto” service is a big challenge itself. Not to mention the target customers are along the interstate highways, are they looking for good quality of food, fast service, or a nice place to chill? Seems that Pronto concept consists of all these elements, however, none of them is a real differentiator. Porcini’s management will definitely need to think about positioning and competitive advantage which Pronto could bring to the table.