First an anecdote…
I was on vacation in Glenwood Springs, CO. After a day of swimming at the hot springs pool, which I highly recommend to families, my wife and I knew that our kids needed takeout that could be eaten at the hotel. My oldest loves Subway. He gets an incredibly simple sandwich:
White bread, ham, pepperoni, provolone cheese. Never toasted.
The line was not long, but the sandwich artists were slow. When it was finally time for me to give my order I was engrossed in reading an article on my phone. I stopped reading and watched as my sandwich was completely assembled. DONE. But I had to wait because the worker handed my son’s sandwich to another employee, and that employee was busy adding lettuce and other toppings to the sandwiches of the customer who was in front of me in the line.
So I put my head down and kept reading because I had to wait for their sandwiches to be finished. When the customer in front was about to finish paying I looked up from my phone and the sandwich was nowhere to be found. I thought maybe it was already wrapped, but when it was time for me to pay the employee working the register started wrapping up a tuna sandwich. I informed the employees that I didn’t get tuna, and that I didn’t know where my sandwich went but it had been there earlier. Turns out the original worker who assembled my sub in the toaster.
So another sandwich had to be made. The worker started making a tuna sandwich! At first I thought I went to the back of the line and would have to wait. I wasn’t happy about that, but then she asked what I wanted on it. I said that wasn’t my tuna sandwich. So she wasted 2 sandwiches to sell me 1 sandwich. Turns out she messed up another patron’s order too.
This worker was definitely having a bad day. She was obviously distracted, and was likely at the end of an 8 hour shift. But the bigger sin here is that Subway thinks it makes more sense to use the assembly line and batch approach to making customized sandwiches.
I think that’s a terrible idea, especially since Subway doesn’t provide a printout or computerized instructions to the workers. So you have communication that has to happen between the customer and the first employee, and then potentially between the employee and the next employee, and then again between the customer and employee 2.
Ordering from Chipotle literally gives me anxiety. I run my own company and almost never stress about things. So you know that they are doing something wrong. Typically I’m ordering for my whole family. Usually we order from their mobile app, but there are times where we haven’t planned ahead and I need to order in person. So I have a list of 5 different things, and I have to refer to my list multiple times as they piece the items together. I’m super nervous I’ll miss something because the pace is frantic, and more than one employee may be asking me questions at the same time.
And they manage to forget to put the chips that go with the kids meal about half the time. I have learned that I need to double check everything. This is because they don’t use a checklist. They literally have one of the most complex food preparation quick service operations I have ever seen and they don’t use a checklist.
I understand there are complexities to incorporating checklists into food preparation, mainly that it’s not clean to touch paper or a computer while prepping food. But at the very least the person at the cash register should do a double check.