CASE COPPER KETTLE CATERING
Copper Kettle Catering (CKC) is a full-service catering preparation of multiple orders. The deliver-only orders are
company that provides services ranging from box lunches scheduled day to day owing to the short-order lead times.
for picnics or luncheon meetings to large wedding, din- CKC sometimes runs out of ingredients for deliver-only
ner, or office parties. Established as a lunch delivery ser- menu items because of the limited inventory space.
vice for offices in 1972 by Wayne and Janet Williams, Wayne and Janet Williams have 10 full-time employees:
CKC has grown to be one of the largest catering busi- two cooks and eight food preparation workers, who also
nesses in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Williamses divide work as servers for the deliver-and-serve orders. In periods
customer demand into two categories: deliver only and of high demand, the Williamses hire additional part-time
deliver and serve. servers. The position of cook is specialized and requires a
The deliver-only side of the business provides dropoff high degree of training and skill. The rest of the employees
of boxed meals consisting of a sandwich, salad, dessert, are flexible and move between tasks as needed.
and fruit. The menu for this service is limited to six sand- The business environment for catering is competitive.
wich selections, three salads or potato chips, and a The competitive priorities are high-quality food, delivery
brownie or fruit bar. Grapes and an orange slice are reliability, flexibility, and cost--in that order. "The quality
included with every meal, and iced tea can be ordered to of the food and its preparation is paramount," states
accompany the meals. The overall level of demand for this Wayne Williams. "Caterers with poor-quality food will
service throughout the year is fairly constant, although the not stay in business long." Quality is measured by both
mix of menu items delivered varies. The planning horizon freshness and taste. Delivery reliability encompasses both
for this segment of the business is short: Customers usually on-time delivery and the time required to respond to cus-
call no more than a day ahead of time. CKC requires cus- tomer orders (in effect, the order lead time). Flexibility
tomers to call deliver-only orders in by 10:00 A.M. to guar- focuses on both the range of catering requests that a com-
antee delivery the same day. pany can satisfy and menu variety.
The deliver-and-serve side of the business focuses on Recently, CKC has begun to feel the competitive pres-
catering large parties, dinners, and weddings. The exten- sures of increasingly demanding customers and several
sive range of menu items includes a full selection of hors new specialty caterers. Customers are demanding more
d'oeuvres, entrées, beverages, and special-request items. menu flexibility and faster response times. Small specialty
The demand for these services is much more seasonal, with caterers have entered the market and have targeted specific
heavier demands occurring in the late springearly sum- well-defined market segments. One example is a small
mer for weddings and the late fallearly winter for holiday caterer called Lunches-R-US, which located a facility in the
parties. However, this segment also has a longer planning middle of a large office complex to serve the lunch trade
horizon. Customers book dates and choose menu items and competes with CKC on cost.
weeks or months ahead of time. Wayne and Janet Williams have been impressed by the
Copper Kettle Company's food preparation facilities concepts of just-in-time operating systems, especially the
support both operations. The physical facilities layout ideas of increasing flexibility, reducing lead times, and low-
resembles that of a job shop. There are five major work ering costs. They sound like what CKC needs to do to
areas: a stoveoven area for hot food preparation, a cold remain competitive. But the Williamses wonder whether JIT
area for salad preparation, an hors d'oeuvre preparation concepts and practices are transferable to a service business.
area, a sandwich preparation area, and an assembly area
where deliver-only orders are boxed and deliver-and-serve Questions
orders are assembled and trayed. Three walk-in coolers
1. Are the operations of Copper Kettle Catering con-
store foods requiring refrigeration, and a large pantry
ducive to the application of JIT concepts and practices?
houses nonperishable goods. Space limitations and the risk
of spoilage limit the amount of raw materials and pre-
2. What, if any, are the major barriers to implementing
pared food items that can be carried in inventory at any
a JIT system at Copper Kettle Catering?
one time. CKC purchases desserts from outside vendors.
3. What would you recommend that Wayne and Janet
Some deliver the desserts to CKC; others require CKC to
Williams do to take advantage of JIT concepts in oper-
send someone to pick up desserts at their facilities.
The scheduling of orders is a two-stage process. Each
Monday, the Williamses develop the schedule of deliver-
and-serve orders to be processed each day. CKC typically
has multiple deliver-and-serve orders to fill each day of the Source: This case was prepared by Dr. Brooke Saladin, Wake Forest
week. This level of demand allows a certain efficiency in University, as a basis for classroom discussion.
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