Friday, October 19, 2007

Fast Food is Slow Because of the Cashiers, the Cooks or the Customers?

Have you ever been to a fast food restaurant when the service was anything but fast? Instead, you stand in line for what seems like hours waiting for the cashier to take your order.

And though you try to remain calm, anger begins to build up inside you as you wait for one of the following: 1.) the newly trained cashier to figure out which button to push, or 2.) the overtaxed cooks behind the counter who like to throw food at each other while they’re working, or 3.) the other annoying customers in front of you who still haven’t figured out what they want, even though they’ve been standing in line for the last ten minutes staring at the menu. And then there's the customer who forgot they actually have to pay for the items they are ordering, so then you wait another five minutes while they dig in their purse or pockets to look for the exact change they need to pay for the meal.

I HATE FAST FOOD! And not just because it contributes to the obesity of America. I hate Fast Food because somewhere along the line it stopped being fast. Somewhere along the line, the fast was replaced with lines and apathy and boredom. We don’t go to fast food restaurants anymore because they’re fast; we go because we like to wait in line and be served by people who hate us for expecting speedy service.

But the ironic thing is that most of the employees who work behind the fast food counters are usually slow. They either look like they’re tired, or falling asleep, or actually sleep walking. There is nothing in their energy or work performance that suggests you are here for a quick meal. In fact, most of the time, they do everything they can to slow down the process.

One of my good friends used to work as a Manager for a Burger King restaurant when he was in college. And even though that was more than twenty years ago, he still feels the need to train fast food employees on what they’re doing wrong. (As if they really cared for his opinion.)

Recently, we went to a local Burger King for lunch, and when we finally got up to the cash register to order, the counter girl didn’t even greet us. She didn’t say “hello,” she didn’t say “may I take your order,” she just stared off into space as if our order was going to be transmitted telepathically.

But since my friend had no intention of ordering until the cashier greeted him properly, he simply stood there staring at her until she finally turned to look at him. She didn’t say anything, though. She just stared back, as if she was goading him to get even angrier.

“Hello, May I help you?” my friend finally said sarcastically, hoping this would jog the girl’s memory of her role in this transaction.


“Isn’t that what you’re supposed to say? Hello, may I help you?”

“I guess. What do you want?”
My friend took a deep breathe before continuing. But not to place his order, mind you. He would rather spend his time at the counter making a few corrections to the girl’s work habits.

“You know, it would be much more efficient if you took several orders while you were waiting for the food to come up. That way you could move this big line along, instead of taking one order at a time and having us all wait while you slowly assemble their meal.”

The girl didn’t respond to what he said; she just stared at him with a blank expression as if he were speaking in tongues.

“But I suppose you already learned that in Burger King College, right?”

“What kind of drink did you want?” was the only response he got.

This launched him into a three minute tirade on the intricacies of good customer service that I had no intention of listening to again. It’s embarrassing enough when he complains about the service, but then when he actually confronts the cashiers with the complaints, I get queasy.

I left the restaurant and walked over to Outback Steakhouse, where I managed to sit down and have an entire meal before my friend was finally out of Burger King. (Apparently they’d messed up his order several times, and he was not going to leave until they got it right.)

So who do you think is to blame for poor service at most fast food establishments? Is it the cashiers, the cooks, or the customers?


Joe Chiappetta said...

I think it is the low pay of all the employees. You get what you pay for.

Buck said...

I couldn't agree more with you, Henson.

I just recently was at a drive through window and witnessed the cashier talking on his cell phone, drinking a soda, and not moving too fast. His Manager was also in view, but not paying any attention to him.

So I think it has to do with a lack of good work ethic. If you agree to take a job, for whatever the pay may be, you should give it 100%. After all, it's not a sweat shop. It is a perfectly respectable job and many people make a lot of money at it. Of course, not on your first day and not if you have a a poor work record.

I blame the Managers mostly for not supervising well. These are the first jobs for many of the employees and they don't know what is expected of them. I think if the Managers were doing their jobs better, the employee would know the proper greetings and they would take pride in their work.

Were you talking about the Burger King on South Avenue in Plainfield, NJ.? I have never had a bad meal there. And yes, I have eaten there many times! I am a heavy user!

My Mobile Notary said...

We tend to be so rude to other folks in this country when they work at places we deem "lower class". Where else in the world would someone have the nerve to tell someone how they should serve? If this happened in Italy, it would be charming. Here instead the individual must hear "Burger King University". How rude. If he didn't like the service, he should move on instead of making himself look like prejudice and ignorant bore.