Thursday, July 8, 2010

Efficiency fail.

My restaurant, being a corporate chain, is all about the quick service, turn-and-burn action. While they want us to give good service, they're also aware that we have a reputation as kind of a seated fast-food joint. They bank on that, and also on the fact that every Joe Schmo's people go to across the country has the same stuff prepared the same way. It's what we are; that's fine.

And I can appreciate that our new owners are trying to streamline and upgrade some things -- by instituting the in/out doors, or by upgrading to actual glass instead of plastic. At least they care, right? They're not just letting things languish, they're trying to update so we don't go the way of Bennigan's. So I'm glad they care. But--you knew that was coming, right?--this is where some practical fucking restaurant experience would come in handy when making these changes!

For instance; the glasses. They sure look pretty! I admit they look a lot nicer than the old plastic ones, yep. Unfortunately, they're also blazing fucking hot when they come out of the dishwasher, so we frequently have to fill them with ice to cool them, pour out the ice/water, and then start over--or risk the glasses shattering from the sudden cold, which has happened already a couple of times.

Oh, and then there's the fact that these glasses hold about 25% more ice than the old ones, so we're re-filling the ice bin more often. And we're now using a bucket that's smaller than the old one, that takes three trips to fill the bin instead of two like the old bucket. They changed to that one because it's rectangular, so theoretically it's easier to pour the ice in without dumping it all over the counter. Unfortunately, it's got a big curved-in plastic lip, so the ice still comes fountaining over it in a great splash of crystalline chunks. Oh yes -- and the glass racks hold five fewer glasses than they used to, so we're changing those heavy bastards out a hell of a lot more often!

Another problem with the glasses is the weight. Empty, they weigh more than the plastic ones did full. Full, they're really quite heavy. Plus they're wider at the top than at the bottom. Between the weight and the shape, we can fit less of them on the tray, meaning, naturally, more trips. It also means more spilled drinks to refill, and more messes to clean up -- and when these glasses break, they fucking shatter. We're talking a five-foot radius of safety-glass like chunks skittering across the kitchen floor.

And then, when it comes time to clear off the tables, there's another glass issue. The plastic kind could be stacked nice and high; I could tuck three towers of them between my arm and my body and hold a fourth and fifth in each hand, and have a big top largely cleared off in one trip. The new glasses can only be stacked three high: not only do they get too heavy, but if you stack four the weight pushes the bottom two together so hard you can't always get them apart without breaking. Oh -- and the sloped sides allow liquid to slosh out more easily, so the glasses have to be emptier to be carried easily. So it takes longer to clear off almost any table.

In essence these glasses are causing delays because they get too hot, they use more ice, they're heavier and wider, they're harder to carry, and they're harder to stack. Any one of those little things would be no big deal, but put them together and it's causing a more significant delay.

Oh, and they took the floor mats out of the kitchen -- why? because people were tripping on them, apparently -- so the floors are constantly slick, constantly slippery, and things that used to be no big deal are suddenly a problem. A two ounce splatter of ranch before would be no big deal -- now it's got to be cleaned up immediately because it makes the floor all slippery and gets tracked all over. And we all know that non-slip shoes are only so good.

Then there's having to come in the opposite door from the dish pit. If there's nobody in the way, it adds an extra 15 seconds to the trip. Which sounds like nothing, right? But again, that's if the kitchen is totally empty. When you have to navigate around fifteen other employees and come to a dead stop several times to let the oblivious expo pass in front of you, it's a lot longer. And because of that delay, and the aforementioned heavier glasses, we're all carrying less on trips back to the kitchen. So that's yet more time to get tables cleared off -- especially if you're unlucky enough to be on the patio and have that extra door to open and extra distance to travel.

Back in the good old days, I could breeze in the south door, dispose of my dirty dishes, and then head to the other side of the kitchen. Along the way I could grab a bottle of steak sauce, fill a glass of Pepsi, ring in an order, grab a box, and go out the north door. Now, I have to carry the dirty dishes in the north door, and cross the kitchen to dispose of them. Then I can make my way back across the kitchen, gathering things as I go -- and then turn back around and exit the south door. Two extra trips across the length of the kitchen. Doesn't sound like much, but it's longer I'm in the back, out of sight of guests, who then start to wonder where I am! And say I head out the door and realize I needed the other kind of steak sauce too. I can't wheel around, take two steps and grab the other bottle -- I have to make another fucking circuit through the kitchen!

And then there's the changes to the menu; suddenly instead of re-printing the menu, they've decided to put this single folded-paper wrapper around it -- plus a flyer with other stuff -- thus doubling the number of menus to collect, deposit, re-assemble, and store. Not a huge deal -- except for the fact that customers are fundamentally stupid and can't find their way out of a paper sack, let alone understand there are actual items printed on that wrapper. "Why don't you have fajitas anymore? I always get fajitas!" "Oh, they're just in a different place on the menu." "WHERE? *frantic flipping* I CAN'T FIND THEM!" *STAB*

Oh! Then there's the changes to the plates. We now have another two types of plates, because they just decided things should be put on different type of plates; so they're harder to stack to bus plates, and the dish pit is more cluttered, and it generally takes longer to deal with, for the cooks and for us and for the dish washer and just in general.

Again -- all little things. But little things that add up, that make everything take longer, that slow down corporate's precious timeframe for table service. And they wonder why our survey scores are slipping? If any of the bastards had ever worked in a restaurant, maybe they'd take all these little things in to account.


tipsfortips said...

I can relate to any number of those changes. I have seen several of them take place during my times at corporate chains. Here are a few tips for the glass problems.

When the glasses come out too hot, put a large metal knife or spoon in them. Run it along the the inside and fill the glass with it in there. The metal conducts heat and more often than not will prevent the cracking due to heat transfer.

If two get stuck together, lay them on their side and roll them. Usually enough to break the seal.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if we work for same company lol (j/k) mine just resorted to the in/out doors, and talk about taking it to a nazi extreme. one foot out and you aren't allowed to go back in, all the way back around for you mr. kindergartner. And we just switched to smaller, one pocket aprons. This prevents employees from being able to have much in there(yes that was the reason given) 1 pocket for the change, pens and book required, and no personal bags or items in the store. only keys on you. (and phone if you're sneaky) *thinks that the corporate heads need to come and work in the restaurant for a few days every time they make some kind of ridiculous change. Sometimes i think they change just for change, or to alleviate boredom, not for the better of the service

The Bitchy Waiter said...

Just wanted to say hey. I get a lot of traffic from your site. Thank you.

purplegirl said...

Tips, thanks for the, well, tips, on the glasses! :)

Anonymous, you're absolutely right -- I'm convinced they do shit just to sit back in their office and feel powerful!

Bitchy Waiter, I'm glad people are following you link, you're quite the writer. :)

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

really, the people who make all these 'upgrades' NEVER worked in food service. Time is of the essence in restaurant work and the more stuff you have to do, the harder it is to wait on tables. The new glasses are a Nightmare. I don't have to tell you....