Monday, March 30, 2015

Lazy Business

If you owned a business, which I don't, would you allow that business to slip into complacency, into a  harried or bare-bones operation that did not show your best "product"?  I observed just that in a couple of establishments down here in Florida.

The first was a sports bar, a pretty popular one, at least during these final stages of the NCAA tournament.  We watched both "Sweet Sixteen" and "Elite Eight" games there, and so experienced the operation when it should have been hitting all cylinders.

It didn't.

In my personal experience, the potato skins were bland and swamped in cheese, the fries were cooked in old oil, the chips that came with the salsa were slightly stale, the salsa itself was overwhelmed by grated onion, the pizza was okay, the beer came pretty regularly.  Of course, there is a deeper question: is the restaurant always like this?  Is the salsa always heavy on the onion juice?  Were the "Harbor Fries" or whatever they were called always holding excess oil?

The other business is a deli down the road.  We entered it for a Sunday lucn and encountered an all-teenage staff who, as my wife kept saying, were "very nice."  No argument here.

But they couldn't really work the cash register, especially when the paper ran out.  They couldn't quite process that my wife just wanted a cheese hoagie, didn't know what to charge for it. They talked me into adding a number of things to my chicken cheesesteak, and then discovered that they were out of most of them.  And when it came time to make the sandwiches, which we could watch, there was no "assembly line," no plan, just three people haphazardly assisting with different parts of two sandwiches.  How, my wife wondered, would they handle a lunch rush?

The sandwiches, when they came, were fine.  By then, another man was waiting for a to-go order, while two of the three employees were huddled over a laptop, charting out their hours for the week, blocking the drink machine.  And everything was getting done, albeit casually.

Maybe this what Sunday at a deli is like.  Maybe when a sports bar is super busy, they throw quality control out the window and just get the food out, trusting that as long as the beer is cold and delivered regularly, no one will say much about the rest of it.

And, actually, if you checked either of these places on Yelp or Trip Advisor, you would confirm that what I witnessed is kind of business as usual, perhaps not the result of off days and busy nights. Lots of comments on the bar food as being "kind of average," on service at the deli as "slow."

I just wonder why.  We live now in a world that will tell you what it thinks of you whether you want to know or not, often publicly, sometimes cruelly.  Is it an acceptable response to not even try when problems are pointed out?  Many of us say yes.  Many of us say "F--- it."  We see, perhaps correctly, people as trolls, criticisms as unfair.  We live in a defensive posture.

But I don't see how a business can take that approach.  To accept your own status quo as a subpar establishment, presumably because you are making enough money or unwilling to invest in making yourself better will eventually spell doom.  Maybe you even find the quirks of your small, local business charming.  Just know that there is someone larger, more corporate, with a business plan eyeing your establishment and planning to satisfy every dissatisfaction of your current customers.

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