Successful Restaurant Using Lean Management 2: Xibei in China

July 15, 2019


“An entire restaurant chain going lean is not something you see every day. Coming all the way from China, Xibei’s story of cultural change will inspire you to never forget the fundamentals of lean, from standardization to quality”, says Jeff Zhou, Vice President, Lean Enterprise China and associate professor of Industrial Engineering at Tongji University.

Xibei is a popular chain of restaurants in China. It has more than 100 locations in many cities. In Xibei, they are targeting the clients of the middle-class.

Mr. Jia, the owner of this organization, is one of the first owners who tend to implement lean principles in managing a restaurant.

The restaurants of the Xibei chain, that apply lean management “lean restaurants”(also known as “3rd generation” restaurants), opened in 2014. They were all successful, increasing the net profit by up to 30% compared to 2nd generation restaurants “typical restaurants”.

UNESCO has invited the company to demonstrate the art of Chinese cooking, a thing that made Xibei popular, boosted confidence within the workforce and made the organization more open to learning about cooking in other countries.


Lean practices in Xibei:

  1. Takt “waiting” time:

Takt time is the period the customer waits until his order is ready and served. In Xibei, after taking the order, the server would place a sand clock on the table where the sand takes 25 minutes to trickle down completely. Then the server would conclude: “If your food is not served within this timespan, we’ll give you two bottles of yogurt as compensation for the late delivery”

Using a sand clock is a smart and very lean way for measuring and visualizing the speed of delivery since a faster service leads to a shorter dining time, resulting in a higher turnover rate and more satisfied customer.


  1. New hires training:

In the past, training new hires to be a fully skilled member of the team used to take between three and six months, whereas, through lean, the training would be completed in six weeks at most.

The training now goes as follows:

  • The trainer shows the trainee how to do some tasks at a specific workstation.
  • The trainee is asked to practice the specific task.
  • If the trainee is qualified to perform the tasks based on a measurement of speed and quality level, the trainee moves to the next workstation.
  • After covering all the workstations in the restaurant, the trainee would pass the training to be a fully skilled waiter and can even train new hires.


  1. The lean layout of the restaurants of Xibei chain:

  • They divided the kitchen into separated stations; for frying, boiling, cooking cold foods and oatmeal, in order to make the layout easy to be controlled.
  • To simplify the installation process, the restaurant would turn to non-gas cooking.
  • They tend to install an open kitchen that makes the restaurant more customer-friendly and gains the customer’s trust in the quality of the food.
  • The tables are as closer to the kitchen as possible.
  • They use a compact menu that is limited to a maximum of 40 dishes.


  1. The quality of the food:

Xibei’s idea of customer value is to provide customers with tasty food at affordable prices.

They use high-quality raw materials by buying the best possible ingredients from meat to vegetables and eggs. They are using a premium variety of lamb only available in the inner Mongolian grasslands.

Moreover, their chefs are combining traditional cooking methods with contemporary ones, not to mention developing and improving new cooking methods.


  1. Dealing with food waste:

“No taste, no money. Any dishes that are not tasty enough can be returned or exchanged”, Mr. Jia promises his customers.

If the customers aren’t satisfied with the food they ate, the cost of the dish will be deducted from the bill. Accordingly, the dish would be marked as waste and placed in a red refrigerator to visualize the problem and to come back to fix the issue of that tasteless dish at the end of the day.

When facing any issues in the dishes, the management team holds a meeting to help find the reason why the customer was not satisfied and try to make improvements. This is because Mr. Jia emphasized that the lean management of Xibei would focus on problems, not the people creating them. In other words, the chef who made an exchanged or a returned dish would not face any disciplinary consequence.


Lean management is on the move, and several restaurants are following the track of transforming into lean. Try to take advantage of this concept and move toward LEAN management.