Simplifying Solutions in Restaurant Technology: The Lunchbox Approach

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Brett Jones, Chief Product Officer at Lunchbox

JUN 17, 2024


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Simplifying Solutions in Restaurant Technology: The Lunchbox Approach

Brett Jones, Chief Product Officer at Lunchbox

In the world of product management, finding the simplest solution to a problem is often more effective than implementing a flashy, overcomplicated one. This philosophy is particularly relevant in the realm of restaurant technology, where practicality and efficiency are paramount. At Lunchbox, we embrace this approach, striving to deliver technology that genuinely addresses the needs of our clients without unnecessary complexity. Joining as the Chief Product Officer, my mission is to ensure that our products not only solve problems but do so in the most straightforward and efficient manner possible.

Why Simplicity Matters

Many product managers, myself included, are tempted by the allure of grand product releases featuring new user interfaces (UIs) and exciting customer experiences. However, not every solution needs to be a groundbreaking innovation. Sometimes, the most effective changes happen behind the scenes—updating back-end logic, automating actions, or simplifying processes. These solutions may not be visually impressive, but they address the root problems that our clients face.

At Lunchbox, we have a guiding principle about product: "A Product Manager finds the simplest solution to the root problem." This principle helps us avoid the pitfalls of overcomplication and ensures that we focus on what truly matters—solving our clients' problems effectively and efficiently.

The Practical Application of Simplicity

Our approach to product management involves applying principles of simplicity throughout the product life cycle, particularly during the Research, Prioritizing, Scoping, and Design phases. These stages are crucial for identifying and addressing the root problems our clients encounter. In fact, 85% of the most successful products are developed through a similar process, or a “Stage-Gate” process. 

Let me share two practical practices that we implement to stay grounded in this creed: the 5 Whys Method and the "One Sentence" explanation.

The 5 Whys Method

With around 72% of new product ideas coming from customers, it is essential we develop a thorough listening and evaluation process. The 5 Whys Method is a powerful problem-solving tool that helps us delve deeper into the root cause of an issue. Believed by many to have been developed by Sakichi Toyoda, the pioneer of Lean Manufacturing, the 5 Whys Method is a powerful problem-solving tool that helps us delve deeper into the root cause of an issue. By repeatedly asking "Why?" we can uncover the underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Here's an example from our experience at Lunchbox:

An account manager approached us with a request from a key potential customer: "Could we change how we do payment authorizations for catering orders to always re-do the authorization a day before the order is to be fulfilled and then alert on failure so they can recover the payment before the order is sent for fulfillment on the day of fulfillment?"

Using the 5 Whys Method, we explored the issue:

  1. Why do they want to change the authorization process for catering orders? Because they're worried about not getting paid for orders and having to chase guests down for payments.

  2. Why are they worried about not getting paid for orders and chasing guests down for payments? Because in their current system, auths would get stale, and orders that failed payment would still go to the POS.

  3. Why do authorizations get stale, and orders that fail payment go to the POS in their current system? Their current system does not re-authorize payments close to the order fulfillment date.

  4. Why does their current system not re-authorize payments close to the order fulfillment date? Because it lacks the capability to automatically refresh authorizations and alert on payment failures before fulfillment.

  5. Why is this capability important for preventing payment issues? Because it ensures payments are valid before fulfillment, avoiding manual intervention and preventing unfulfilled payments from reaching the POS.

Through this process, we identified that the root problem was the inability of their current system to refresh authorizations automatically and alert on payment failures. By addressing the core issue, we discovered that the Lunchbox platform already solves this, and an additional feature/solution would not have to be built. We were able to work through the challenge with them and quickly provide a simple solution that easily solved their problem, all the while avoiding unnecessary development time and resources—a win-win. 


The "One Sentence" Explanation

The "One Sentence" explanation tool helps us distill complex solutions into concise statements, highlighting the key elements and guiding us toward identifying Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). This exercise forces us to focus on what truly matters in a project. Here are some examples of projects summarized in one sentence:

  • "Fix the bug preventing the data dashboard from auto-refreshing upon user login."

  • "Develop a brand management solution that simplifies menu and price management, giving restaurants more control for smooth expansion and success across different channels."

  • "Implement a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on the website featuring the top 20 customer queries from support channels."

This practice helps us maintain clarity and insight, ensuring that our solutions are both effective and efficient.

Bringing the Problem, Not the Solution

At Lunchbox, we encourage our team to bring problems, not just solutions, to the table. By thoroughly understanding the problem, we can avoid the common pitfalls of proposing overly complex solutions or addressing surface-level issues without delving into the root cause. This approach helps us ensure that our solutions are truly effective and meet the needs of our clients.

At Lunchbox, our commitment to simplicity drives our approach to product management and development. By focusing on finding the simplest solution to the root problem, we ensure that our products effectively meet the needs of our clients. Whether it's through the 5 Whys Method or the "One Sentence" explanation, we strive to deliver practical, efficient solutions that enhance the restaurant technology landscape.

As we continue to innovate and evolve, our dedication to these principles will guide us in creating technology that truly makes a difference for our clients. In the end, it's not about the flashiest features or the most complex solutions (although we’re still working on those flash features)—it's about delivering real value through simplicity and efficiency along with the consistent pursuit of innovation.

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