The fast food cheeseburger is an interesting item.  To some, me included, it is a delicious treat.  But is also surprisingly fragile despite its reputation.

Have you ever watched fast food burgers churned out? It is a race against time to get this amalgam of meat, cheese in bread into a customer’s hands before it starts to degrade.

This food has an optimal serving temperature and restaurants consider “time” when deciding how long these foods can sit under heating elements before being served.  Which is a great system, until it is not. 

I have had a recent spate of interactions with my formerly favorite local burger chain, that have been both highly disappointing and educational.  These issues arise around the restaurant’s slavish devotion to the time a cheeseburger can sit after being made.

These burgers had been served to me in under the allotted time and they were “warm”, but the bread had already begun to harden and the cheese to congeal.  They were edible, but not what I expected.

When I attempted to return them, they were polite, and gave me another cheeseburger with the same characteristics. 

When I insisted on getting one that was in some way closer to something edible, I was told they would make new ones when these ones had run out or they had timed out, which would mean me waiting around for at least 10 minutes.

The people working at the restaurant were not “wrong” according to the system they were taught, but this system runs counter to their long term goals. Which should be customer satisfaction.

Their system lacks flexibility.  No one there was willing or empowered to make a decision that would have made me a more contented customer.

The system was so rigid that when I insisted on some deviation from it, it caused a chain reaction that brought the entire process to a halt. If I wanted a refund, they would need to get the manager.  The manager was not available.  So I am left standing there waiting while the clock continued to countdown towards fresh cheeseburgers that I decided against when offered almost 10 minutes later.

I walked out hungry and settled on a lunch that was less satisfying and disturbingly healthy.

When you design a system, you need to revisit it.  You need to ask yourself, why are we doing this?  For this restaurant, they were not sure if it was an efficient use of their resources or serving a quality product. In a perfect world it is both, but that requires constantly monitoring and improving their system.

Sadly because they were unfocused and inflexible, this system cost them a customer.