project: Marah

project management for the things that really matter

Bagel Shop Re-Engineering

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I went to get a bagel and coffee this morning.

They’ve Changed The Bagel Place. Again.

I know that retail establishments often reconfigure their front of house (and back of house) operations in hopes of establishing greater efficiency. Especially chain/franchises. Someone far removed from the actual situation at hand sees a floor plan, and an audit report of sales per hour and decides that it could be done better.

I believe that what was grossly overlooked in this case was the fact that this establishment is a morning and weekend place. That means that most of the people going in are half awake needing a vital infusion of caffeine and starch before even uttering a full sentence. I know this, of course, based on the very large sample size of one. Because on those rare days that I crave coffee, nothing and no one else in this world matters before that cup of sugar, half and half and brown caffeinated water.

I walked in today, and realize that the coolers are gone, replaced by chip bins, and the newspapers are in a different spot, and thank goodness the bagels are in the same location – but they have changed the order of display – which makes my brain work harder.

This makes initiating the order, the first part in the process a little harder, as I must ascertain if they have my favorite flavor (everything) and if not what my second choice will be (it varies). Thankfully, providence is somewhat on my side, and the everythings are in stock fresh from the back of house. IT was either that or blueberry so I’m feeling kinda lucky.

Now, Though the location of the bagels hasn’t changed, the way in which I get one from behind the glass and into my hands has completely altered. The Process Flow and Plan that is put in place is certainly created by someone who has never ordered a bagel and coffee on less than 4 hours of sleep. To initiate the project of getting my bagel, I now must queue up and talk to one person behind a console, who types it in. Then it gets printed out at some other magical bagel delivery station and placed in a First in First Out queue. While the behind the scenes magic is happening I pay for the bagel at another console. Before, I would just make eye contact , point, grunt, mumble, and voila, bagel, cream cheese, coffee, heaven. This was a simple plan.

The execution of this plan was generally carried out by one person – they’d take my order, make it, then take my money, then I’d take my items smile, and leave. Now, because they’ve changed it up, there are at least 3, if not 4 – 5 people involved in the same project of getting my bagel. What’s worse is as a customer, it’s not clear what to do after I’ve asked for what I’ve wanted, especially if it is a To-go order. I can’t stand between the two consoles, because there is a line of folks waiting to pay. I shouldn’t sit down (because it is around the corner and out of view of the bagel making counter.

Now, I have lost control over my bagel project. One could argue that I never really had control, just awareness, but I argue that awareness is a form of control. My bagel getting process which used to involve walking up to the counter, ordering, watching, paying, taking, leaving, has disappeared into the abyss of efficiency.

I can no longer watch my food being made as it is passed like a basketball down the court – along with 3 or 4 other similar looking basketballs. In the past I could stand there and observe, (stare) at the person making me food and make sure they didn’t pick their nose into it. Now I must hope for the best because some head office bean counter decided that it was better this way. They probably already had their morning fix.

I go to this chain for two main reasons — it’s about a 3 minute roll out the door, and there’s an acquaintance who works there. For some reason there’s a force field around his email address so this is the only way to make a connection.  Today he reports that my prior attempt to add him to the social email group I’ve formed has been unsuccessful. Granted, the last time we had this stilted conversation it was before the blessed Caffeine has hit my system, so it’s probably me.

I digress.

We were talking about the local Happy Hour, and I corrected him that it’s next week (as opposed to yesterday) and he said he’d be there.

In the midst of this congenial conversation I  realize I am still without bagel.  The coffee is slowly warming up the slow moving brain which realizes that I can close this deal right here right now. It’s an awful thing to do, as I am sure that everybody else huddling in line is also desperate for their bagel in light of the new “process improvements”,  but since I know this guy, I’m going to see if he can help in the quest for breakfast. I don’t know him well, but we know each other well enough that we are both standing here having a conversation.

I look at this mass of people, like me, who have now fixed their coffee and are waiting in front of the chips by the front door (really awful people flow design to have folks blocking entrance/egress while they wait for something they’ve already paid for) and I look at the Bagel Acquaintance  and say “I wonder what happened to my bagel anyway?” – he says, “what was it ?” on the ready, i respond “everything toasted, cream cheese…”

Less than a minute later I have closed the deal and am out the door. I catch a bit of a rumble that he’s taken a bagel out of queue and I’ve jumped the line. I’m not sure how guilty i feel for understanding how the system was working, and finding an unconventional way to improve the process to achieve my simple goal of breakfast.

Despite lack of sleep, coffee and a change up in the expected, I was able to leverage available resources to get what i wanted, on budget and in less time.  I’ll definitely be back there next weekend.

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Written by marahrosenberg

9 December 2008 at 3:01 am

One Response

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  1. […] Marah pointed out her horrid process management experience as a customer at a local deli. They tried to streamline or something in an effort to improve their throughput. Trouble is, they got everything wrong. Possibly related posts-10 year reunion-Looking for remote control interface design help-Wordpress suckiness […]


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