The highway was horribly backed up on my way home today, so I stopped at a Burger King halfway home today. The place was mobbed, and as I stood watching everything while I waited for my food, I reflected on the days when I worked–and ran shifts–at the bowling center, and on my time in college studying Management.
The first thing that I noticed is something that I find surprising that any manager would do. Don’t yell at your employees in front of customers. It’s humiliating for the employee, no doubt, but it makes the manager look inexperienced and the business look unprofessional. Take them aside and talk to them, or just politely coach them on what they should be doing. The person who took my order apologized because he only had four nickels and a couple pennies as change. He asked the manager to bring him change. She snapped back that she’d been trying to get change ever since he came into work at 5:30pm and that if he had been on time it wouldn’t have been an issue. Besides the fact that it seemed a non-sequitir, it was really unprofessional. The teenage kid being yelled at seemed like the more professional one, really.
But what I found happening in general is something that happened to us all the time when I worked at the bowling center. You started getting slammed in one department, so you’d shift more resources there, but it wasn’t enough. Your service slowed down, but it slowed down everywhere. There was a long wait for lanes, and it was made even worse because one was broken and we’d asked the mechanic to come help with customers. Food was backlogged. The trashcans were overflowing so people were just piling garbage up on counters nearby, and there was spilled popcorn all over the floor.
I started thinking today that, even though it makes intuitive sense to try to take resources from one department and throw them into the most-overwhelmed department, you’re setting yourself up for even more problems. If one department is having problems, don’t devote resources you can’t spare. It’d be like having one of the cooks in a restaurant come out and help seat people. It works in the short term, but makes things even worse in the long-run.
At Burger King, the trashcans were all overflowing and all of the napkin dispensers were empty. An employee threw a carton of napkins on the counter, since no one had time to go put them away or empty the trash. But I contend that it would have been better if one of the employees had taken the time during the rush to start in on stuff. Don’t go polishing the kitchen sinks, but take an employee out to start putting out fires as soon as they start. Fill up the napkins and empty the main trash cans that are overflowing the most. Yes, the kitchen needs all the help it can get, but it means that people eating won’t be getting in the way of customers trying to order to get their napkins, and it means that new customers won’t be greeted by overflowing trash bins and garbage on the floor.
Oh, and another thing: don’t rush your way through to keep up. I waited maybe 2 minutes for my burger and fries. It wasn’t a problem at all. But if I had known that my fries would be undercooked and literally dripping with oil, I’d gladly have waited another five minutes for them to be done right.
I guess another reason for what I’m arguing is one of the overall experience. Which of the following partially-hypothetical situations seems worse?
- I waited 10 minutes for my meal. It seemed to take a really long time. After a long wait, I got my food, grabbed some napkins, sat down in a clean booth, and ate it. It was good. By the time I was done, I had forgotten about the slow service. On the way out, I threw my trash out in the garbage can and walked away satisfied.
- I waited 5 minutes for my meal. It seemed to take a really long time. When it finally came, I realized that there were no napkins in the dispenser, so I had to wander around the restaurant trying to find them. I finally found them, after walking by some disgusting overflowing trash cans. Then I had to try to find a clean booth to sit at, before settling for one that only had some crumbs but no mustard smeared across the table or soda spilled on the booth. After cleaning my own table and thinking that the place was a dump, I finally sit down to enjoy my meal, only to realize that the French fries were undercooked and that the whole meal is really pretty crappy. While eating, I pass the time chewing the crappy food by looking around and realizing what a dump the place is. On my way out, I find that all of the trash cans are overflowing, so I leave my tray of half-eaten food and napkins on the counter by the drink fountain. I drive home and am so irked that I write a rambling blog post about how awful the experience was.