Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Drive-Thru Dilemma.

Does this sound familiar:  You pull up to your local fast food joint to see a long drive-thru line and no one is inside.  In your mind it seems straight forward to go inside and get your food quicker.  You walk inside and wait for three, maybe five minutes before someone comes to take your order.  And then the worst thing ever: you wait 20 minutes to get your "fast" food.

The world we live in moves at the speed of light, and we expect our food to be the same way.  We want fast service.  The invention of the Drive-Thru window seems to have some inaccurate history with it.  Mostly, there are a number of places that claim the rite of "First Store With A Drive Thru."  Either way, it works like this: Ford invented the assembly line, McDonald's made it work for fast food, and someone said, "let's add a way for people to not even get out of cars to get their food."

Since then, we have sacrificed quality for speed.  Let me make this clear: I am in no way hating on Fast Food.  If it weren't for Taco Bueno, I would starve. But there's a problem with this drive-thru mentality: a human being is less important than a car.

I've worked at two fast food restaurants: Taco Bueno and Whataburger.  Both of these fast food joints share a common birthplace (Texas) and a commitment to quality food.  Taco Bueno aims for a "show" time of 30 seconds at the drive thru window.

Show Time: Show time is the amount of time that starts when a customer arrives at the drive-thru window or "pickup window" and ends when the customer pulls away.  

Taco Bueno's show time is lengthy compared to that of McDonald's, which aims to be 15 seconds.  Whataburger cared a little less, they didn't really even keep record of the time because their goal was to make the food fresh when a customer orders.

But most fast food chains base performance off of the drive-thru show time.  That's great for the hungry patrons who are picking up a burger between Yoga and Soccer Practice, but what about the customers who come in to the store?

At many fast food joints there are four to five people dedicated to the drive-thru operations and one or two dedicated to the dining room.  And the worst part is, most of the dining room crews are the newest team members, leaving them unknowledgable.  So, you and your family come in to a dining room to eat, and you wait 30 minutes to get your food in an unclean area because the new guy doesn't realize that it's his responsibility to clean it and the manager on duty is only focused on his show time.

But it's not just the drive-thru, what about when you're at AutoZone trying to check out, and the guy waiting on you stops to go answer the phone?  When a person comes in to your store it doesn't mean that they're not in a hurry by trying to use the fastest route, it means that they are taking time out of their busy day to be your patron, and you should put your best foot forward.... but do you?  I mean, really, do you?

It's time to remember that your customers are number one, and if they walk into your store, you should drop everything and wait on them.  (You know, like Five Guys does.)

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

The sign at Five Guys that says it all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Difference Between Bigger and Better

There's a lot of buzz right now about a 1000 passenger A380.  As you may know, I prefer to call the A380 the Double Decker Death Trap.  I may not be liked by a number of Airbus employees and fans because of this, but there are many reasons why I worry about the safety of the A380, and moreso a 1000 pax version.

There's a phrase, "The bigger you are, the harder you fall."  Airbus has been number two for a long time.  The reason?  An iconic plane called the 747 (and I'll tack on the 777 as well).  Boeing has always built a better plane, but right now there is a lot of uncertainty in the Chicago headquarters.  Customers are frustrated with the 787 delays, and Boeing has yet to make a decision about a 737 replacement or re-engine.

As is often the case with an anxious company, Airbus feels that they have a lead right now.  They've got the A320NEO, and the A380 flying (well, minus when the engines blow up), and the A350WXB is well on its way with over 500 orders.  Often when a misguided underdog takes the lead, they want to put a great distance between them and their number two.  So Airbus calls for the 1000 seat Double Decker Death Trap.

Airbus, stop, and think.  Is this the best thing to do, or are you trying to compensate for years of being number two?  When Boeing decides to improve on something already great, they extend it some, and change the wing design and systems, not double it in size.  Think about the publicity that could bring: "1000 people dead after A380 falls out of sky for no apparent reason."  Or worse, Air France Pilot error takes the Double Decker Death Trap to its grave (What?  Think that can't happen: AF447 - pilot error,  AF4590 - pilot error [if you don't agree with me on this one, bring it.])

What I'm trying to say is that bigger isn't always better, and the slow and steady company will win this race.  Plus, I'm not riding in an oversized sardine can.

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?