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[personal profile] djonn
There are, at one of the big regional shopping malls in the greater Portland area, two "quick casual" franchises located next to one another. As it turns out, I stopped into both of them earlier this evening and came away with such sharply contrasting experiences that I can't resist sharing. So:

First operation: mildly busy, as I might expect earlyish on a Friday evening. I enter, peruse the menu, and approach the counter to order.

The girl at the counter pulls a pen and a receipt pad (yes, an office/retail receipt pad, not a restaurant-style order pad), and explains that their computers are down, so they're taking down all the orders by hand. That's fine, I say. Then the girl supplies the kicker, sounding regretful but sincere: "and there'll be a wait of maybe half an hour, will that be all right?"

I blink, and am sufficiently boggled that my question comes out wrong. "The computer slows you down that much?"

"No," the girl explains, still sincere and apologetic, "the computer's *down*, so we don't have any way to communicate with the kitchen. When it's working, what we punch into the register goes straight back to the kitchen."

I blink again, because this operation has a semi-open kitchen -- I can see cooks in the work area behind the order counter, a mere few steps from the cash register, cooking people's dinners. And while the restaurant is far from empty, it's nowhere near full, and there's not a long line at the counter.

I consider possible responses. Should I rant angrily? No; escalating the situation isn't likely to solve the problem. Should I try to explain how cavemen short-order waiters and line cooks do this sort of thing all the time without computers, much faster than half an hour per order? No; from the conversation so far, I can tell that there isn't a clue-bat big enough to get that point across. Also, I'm hungry....

So I excuse myself politely, and go next door to the other franchise. Where I peruse the menu, order at the counter, and receive a vibro-pager; "this will go off when your order's ready; you can pick it up at the next counter down". As I finish paying for the meal, the vibro-pager goes off.

"Whoa," I say, collecting my beverage cup and strolling down to the pickup counter -- where the server is dishing up my soup as she explains that they're out of the bread they normally use for my sandwich, and tells me what she does have available. I pick an alternate, and they promise to bring the sandwich out to my table, since the vibro-pager has already done its thing. "We'll find you", the girl says. And they do, almost before I've finished arranging my soup and drink. The contrast is remarkable; at the second restaurant, everyone's communicating using *both* technology and traditional methods, and the service even when they're addressing a problem is admirably efficient.

I'm not naming either chain here; franchises can vary widely in their levels of cluefulness within a given chain, so it wouldn't be fair to either to generalize upward from my experiences. I'm just fascinated at the juxtaposition of critical clue-failure and plain common sense in the present instance.
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