The solution was a software system that was purpose-built for the Royal Opera House.
In the background the system had bookings, items that were available (like a menu), and the time the item would take to prepare. This would control the lead time that the kitchen would need in order to prepare the food. The system also had the time to consume each item, so that the food offered could be eaten during the interval. The system also held the selling and cost price information for each item. This allowed the system to create the bills for meals etc. It would also allow the Royal Opera House to see how much they were selling and how much it cost them.
The system even had the restaurant layout, tables and which waiters were in charge of which tables. For each waiter, the system built up a list of those guests who preferred to be served by that waiter. The system even associated guests into groups, so that 2 pairs of people could share a table for 4, without anyone getting upset! Guests, who were booking were given a simple reference code for their booking, although, of course, the system worked so well that the waiter knew who he was expecting to serve.
The waiters were given a list of who they were serving, where the guest was sitting and what they had ordered. The waiter could then lay up the table, complete with the meal, ready for the guest to arrive, either before, during or after the performance. The system even produced the bills for the prebooked meals and drinks.
For the kitchen, the system gave them a list of how many of each menu item they had to prepare and another list that allocated those items to particular waiters.
For the front of house staff the system produced the lists of which items were to be delivered to the boxes, which drinks needed to be ready for the interval. These lists allowed them to order perishable items such as flowers at the last moment before the performance.
For the back office staff the system produced full analyses of how many of what item had been sold, value of sales (analysed by type of item), cost of sales and the profit of the various items and groups of items. The system would also produce reports that analysed the spending of each guest.
The system revolutionised the catering operation at the Royal Opera House. As the catering manager said to me : "We have never had information and analysis of the catering operation before. This is amazing and instantly tells us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong."