Jeanne and I spent a lot of time talking this weekend about our Thanksgiving 2k15 experience. (And in full disclosure, most of that time was in the car on our way to and from to Kansas City for a day of shopping on Saturday, wherein I also taught Jeanne how to watch Gene Pitney videos on YouTube and completely BLEW HER MIND with the technology available to us in the waning weeks of 2015.)
And after a full dissection of what worked and what didn’t, we declare the last week to be a complete success. Let’s look at what worked…
- We were realistic about the challenges we faced this year. We totally owned our shortcomings of Thanksgiving 2k14 and focused on those areas of improvement with some white-hot intensity.
- We made peace with the fact that we would spend at least one full night at PJP Buttonwood. Working all day with the knowledge that you’ll be working all night somehow makes it easier. I don’t know why. Do you?
- Limiting pie variety options for Wednesday proved to be most helpful. As we baked through the night, we moved more quickly working on 12 varieties of nine-inch pie (as opposed to the over 20 different types of pie available in jars, babies, nine-inch and 12-inch last year).
- Asking the customer to choose a two-hour window for pickup helped ensure that we could plan our baking schedule accordingly. By 3 am on Wednesday morning, I knew that the round of pickups scheduled for 10:30 to 12:30 were finished and that helped control our anxiety and helped us to focus on the 12:30 to 2:30 pickups. As we rolled into noon on Wednesday, we were completely finished with the baking schedule (and by comparison, we were likely around 25% finished at noon on Wednesday last year).
- Mostly notably, we were overly prepared…in every way. We had extra space, extra food supplies, extra bags, extra staff, extra hope, extra fear, extra anxiety, extra everything. In the end, we even had a few extra pies for sale.
- The extra space in Spare Space was paramount to our Thanksgiving operation. Plenty of room for customers, additional pay stations, and a less frenzied atmosphere were all welcome additions to our pie pickup process. (A lot of people asked about the cost of Spare Space. Silent Stan charged us $400 for the month, including utilities.)
- Having extra help was a game changer. GAME CHANGER. I could write 500 paragraphs for you about what the volunteer help meant to us, but it wouldn’t be enough to convey how important each volunteer was to the entire operation.
- We had a lot of data about orders available to us. And I had that data available in several different formats so that bakers could look at numbers differently than those working at the pickup tables. And whatever the data set, it was spiral bound so that I wouldn’t find page two on the front counter and page 18 in the bathroom.
- We labeled the pie boxes with the customer name and phone number. As the pies cooled and we started to box them, it helped ensure that we didn’t miss anyone. For example, if we baked 100 pecan pies and then discovered that we had 105 customer name labels for pecan pie…then we knew we needed to bake another five pecan pies. Don’t ask me how I know that so well.
- We wrote the customer name on each Kraft bag before we ever baked the pies. As we baked the pies, boxed them, and labeled them, the bags served as the final check that we didn’t miss anyone. A labeled bag empty of boxed pies indicated a problem to remedy before the person stood in front of you ready to checkout.
And because we keep it real…tomorrow, a list of what we did wrong.