Adding a little kaizen to your cornflakes and marginal gains to your Marmite on toast.

I stayed at a hotel in York recently. Despite what I’m about to say, there was lots to recommend it with its secure parking facilities, four-poster beds, complimentary wi-fi in every room and a front of house manager that could easily be the star of a reality TV show. The thing that really stuck in my mind though, was the breakfast.

Not the quality of the sausages or the crispiness of the bacon, one small part of the overall experience.

My wife and I were greeted at the entrance to the restaurant, shown to our tables, given the menus and asked if we wanted any tea or coffee.

The breakfast here was a tantalising two-course affair with cereals, fruit, yoghurt and juice for starters and then the traditional Full English (with vegetarian equivalents of all the good bits) and various other ways of serving a hot egg for main course.

The cereals and juice were laid out on a small table just behind ours, alongside the glasses and bowls to serve them in so my wife got up to get us some orange juice only to be told (albeit politely) by our waitress that she would bring them over when she’d taken our order.

One small change

We witnessed this happen with three other guests while we sat there that morning and it made me think how just one small change could have streamlined the whole process.

Regular hotel visitors are used to buffet style breakfasts so if the waitresses explained their little quirk to people on the way to the table or when they were first seated, they’d quash any confusion before it had crossed anyone’s mind.

There’d be no more mild embarrassment for guests when they’re told they’ve done something wrong. The staff could concentrate on serving tea and toast, rather than interrupting what they’re doing to explain the rules each time someone breaks them. And if presented in the right way the “we’ll serve you” message has more five star appeal than “help yourself” so the whole thing could be spun into a positive too.

Marginal gains

Whatever Alex Polizzi says, it’s not always about ripping out all the bedrooms, repainting the front of the building and putting a Werther’s Original on every pillow. Whether you run a hotel, a stationery shop or a website that sells bobble hats, look for the little ways to tweak and improve the experience your customers get and the gains you make, however marginal, could be the difference between someone coming back for more or checking in elsewhere.

Marginal gains at the breakfast table, full English fun and games

Please can you move the beans away from the toast as they’ll make it go soggy.