Lately, I’ve been asking myself a question: whatever ever happened to fast food? It just seems everywhere I go the waiting times are getting longer and longer. Why is this and what can be done about it?
I think this as I line up at Grill’d, a gourmet burger company where the burgers cost almost as much as a steak. There’s a couple in front of me still deciding what they want to order. Oh, should we have the Simply Grill’d or the Chilli Addict? When they finally make up their mind, the order taker asks them a thousand questions just to throw a spanner in the works. Would you like a traditional bun, low carb superbun, panini or gluten free bun? What kind of cheese do you want on the burger?
The women in front of me wants to know what’s the difference between the traditional and the panini bun. Then when I think they’re finally going to finalise their order they’re asked what kind of chips they want, regular, sweet potato, avocado or zucchini. Oh by the way, what kind of dip do you want with that? You see my point, far too many questions and an inefficient way to answer them. Finally, after all of that, it’s my turn to order. Despite my best efforts I can’t avoid the labyrinth of questions either.
Another frustration of mine is a new breed of restaurants that are neither table service or counter service. Increasingly, I’ve noticed a practice where one is required to line up, just to be given a seat, once you sit down the staff member tells you that you can order at the counter; she follows this up by saying, “please let me know if you need anything.” Do you mean like taking my order now, I’ve waited in line for 15 minutes? This new trend neither has expediency of fast food nor the civility of table service. It combines worst elements of both.
There’s one trendy dessert restaurant in Brisbane’s Southbank that made me and wait 15 minutes before being taken to my seat, which was a milk crate. After all that waiting you’d be forgiven for thinking that they would be ready to take my order. No, I then had another 10-minute wait before I could order.
I recently watched the film Founder starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc the man behind of McDonald’s. Watching the industrial efficiency of the original McDonald brothers’ restaurant was a thing of beauty. Burgers, fries and milkshakes were coming out as fast as people could order them. Since then the McDonald’s menu has expanded, the contemporary McDonald’s has replaced people with computers allowing the humans to focus on the running the kitchen rather than taking the order.
Perhaps this is the future, the original McDonald’s kept the menu simple and that allowed efficiency. Perhaps the new breed of fast food restaurants need to adopt self-service machines to reduce the time it takes to order. Whatever they end up doing, I’m sick of waiting.
Justin Campbell is the general manager of LibertyWorks, Inc.
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