If Burger Restaurants Operated Like Corporate Software Development

Customer: [orders a bacon cheeseburger with fries]

Waiter: [walks to the kitchen] I need an order of hot food please.

Cook: Can you be more specific?

Waiter: The kind that you eat.

Cook: That doesn’t help me.

Waiter: He intends to eat it with his mouth. The one on his face.

Cook: Yeah, I get that part but I mean, what specifically do you want me to cook? What items should I put in the oven?

Waiter: Oh, okay. Um… I need a milk pig on a meat circle with a side of deep fryer. So can you do the needful on that?

Cook: Okay, we’re getting closer. Can you show me a picture of what they ordered?

Waiter: [opens menu and shows picture]

Cook: That’s called a bacon cheeseburger.

Waiter: Isn’t that what I said?

Cook: No, not quite. Milk is not the same as cheese. Pig is not bacon. We never serve sides of deep fryer. A deep fryer is the tool I use too cook things. So he wants a bacon cheeseburger, right? We’ve got that figured out. Now what does he want me to cook in the deep fryer?

Waiter: Potato sticks.

Cook: You mean french fries?

Waiter: Yeah, I guess if you want to get all technical about it.

Manager: I couldn’t help overhearing. Are we having a communication breakdown? Shall we call a meeting?

Cook: No, we’re good. We got it figured out.

Waiter: My customer just ordered a round hot dog and I have come to know that milk is not cheese and pig is not bacon.

Cook: Not a hot dog. A Bacon cheeseburger.

Waiter: Yeah, that’s right. Sorry.

Manager: I’m calling a meeting. Everyone! Let’s meet up for five minutes in the kitchen so we can all get on the same page here.

Cook: No! Please, no more meetings.

Manager: It’ll only be five minutes, I promise.

Cook: Meetings never take five minutes.

Manager: I swear on my mother’s life. Only five minutes. I promise, promise promise. I will tender my resignation if this meeting goes into overtime.

Bartender: [to the cook] Hey, just real quick, would you be able to make me a fettucine alfredo?

Cook: Yeah, that’s no problem. Just make a ticket.

Bartender: Wonderful. It just needs to be a burger instead of a pasta and please make it have the nutritional content of a salad. Thanks a bunch!

Cook: Wait. Now I have questions.

Bartender: No time for questions. I have to get to this meeting.

[everyone joins up for a meeting in the kitchen]

Manager: Okay, this meeting is about this most recent order. It sounds like we know what the customer has ordered now. I will go talk to him and confirm right after this meeting.

Waiter: I already confirmed with him a couple times. He insists he is absolutely certain this is what he wants.

Manager: I’m going to confirm anyway. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this industry it’s that customers never know what they want. I’m going to double check right after the meeting just to be safe.

Waiter: Okay, sounds good.

Bartender: Am I really needed in this meeting?

Dishwasher: I too am not sure why I’m here.

Manager: Just hold on guys. This is good information for everyone. Okay, so can you walk us through exactly how you’re going to execute this order?

Cook: [gives brief overview of how to cook a bacon cheeseburger]

Manager: Okay, so if I can recap, first you take the ham out of the refrigerator, you put it on the grill and then —

Cook: Okay, let me stop you there. I’m not trying to be difficult but there’s actually three things wrong with what you just said. One, our refrigerator is broken so I will be pulling the hamburger patty out of the ice chest. Two, our grill is still broken so I will actually be cooking this burger in the oven. And three, “ham” is not short for “hamburger”. Ham is actually a totally different meat. That’s one of those weird food-word things that you just have to memorize.

Dishwasher: You know, since we’re on the topic of things not working, my dish machine is still broken. I also can’t get any hot water out of the sink.

Manager: Don’t you need hot water to wash dishes?

Cook: I heat it up on the stove for him.

Manager: Excellent. Fantastic teamwork, guys.

Dishwasher: I’m just saying I could wash dishes far more effectively if stuff worked. I’m only getting like twenty to thirty minutes of break time every hour.

Manager: Are you having trouble keeping up? How many dishes do you need to wash today?

Dishwasher: I’d have to check my ticket queue but I think I have six plates to wash today.

Bartender: My coffee maker is still broken. Not to change the subject again.

Manager: Okay guys we are getting way off topic here — but wait I thought you knew how to fix the coffee machine and I could swear I saw you serving coffee earlier today.

Bartender: I brought my french press from home and I heat the water in the microwave. And yes, I know exactly how to fix the coffee maker. It’s a jammed filter. It would take me ten seconds to fix it but I’m not authorized to do that. I put in a request for authorization a week ago and haven’t heard anything.

Manager: Damn. I’m sorry. I forgot. I dropped the ball on that one. They rejected your request because you didn’t explain why customers like to drink coffee. I guess they need like a minimum of a hundred characters in the request to make it official. I forgot to let you know. So this is my fault. Can you just go fix it and not tell anyone?

Bartender: I don’t really feel comfortable breaking protocol like that.

Manager: Okay, I tell you what. Meet me at the coffee maker after the meeting. I will provide a distraction. You fix it real quick and if we get caught I promise I will take full responsibility.

Bartender: Okay, I can do that.

Manager: Excellent. Solving problems. This is great, folks. Wonderful teamwork here. Looks like we can skip the call to maintenance.

Maintenance: Wait. What’s going on? Sorry, I wasn’t listening. [looks up from phone]

Manager: Are you in the middle of something? We can wait if it’s important.

Maintenance: No, sorry. I was playing zombies on my phone.

Manager: Do you have the tank yet?

Maintenance: I do but I found I can get more kills per minute on foot with the flame thrower.

Manager: Did you attach both flame throwers to the tank?

Maintenance: You can attach two?

Dishwasher: Is this relevant? Can we sidebar this discussion?

Maintenance: Yeah, sorry. So what’s going on again?

Cook: The fridge is broken.

Maintenance: I fixed that last week. What’s wrong with it now?

Cook: It’s not cold.

Maintenance: You verified that?

Manager: I can verify that. The refrigerator does not get cold.

Maintenance: What exactly did you do to verify that?

Manager: Well, I walked into the kitchen, stood in front of the refrigerator and put my hand on the door handle. I wrapped my fingers around the handle and pulled gently but firmly. The latch disengaged and the door swung open on its hinges — which is totally correct. That’s what it’s supposed to do. But then I stuck my arm inside. I expected to feel a sensation of cold on my flesh, but I did not feel that coldness. I then looked at the thermometer on the inside, which confirmed what my skin was telling me.

Maintenance: Okay, I’ll take a look.

Manager: Great. This is great, guys. I feel like we’re making real good progress here. So we’ve got this whole bacon cheeseburger thing under control now?

Cook: Yes, I can cook a bacon cheeseburger. That was never really a problem, even without a working grill.

Maintenance: The fridge is just fine. It’s not plugged in. Refrigerators need to be plugged in to work.

Cook: Did I need to do that? How was I supposed to know?

Maintenance: Well, yeah, of course you need to plug it in. It was totally already fixed.

Manager: Well, refrigerators are supposed to be cold. If it wasn’t cold then it wasn’t fixed. I’m gonna set up another meeting where we can discuss the definition of “done” since I feel like there’s a disconnect here about when we can officially call a task complete.

Maintenance: I’m only authorized to fix things. I’m not authorized to plug them in when I’m done. Only cooks and managers can use kitchen outlets. That’s why I have the generator in the back of my truck.

Manager: Oh, right. I forgot. Okay, well I’m going to schedule the meeting anyway. Maybe we can come up with a workaround.

Waiter: [peering out toward the dining room] Do you mind if I leave now? I think my customer is having trouble finding the bathroom.

Manager: We put up bathroom signs just last week.

Cook: I tore all those down.

Manager: What? Why would you do that?

Cook: Because you can’t just go around putting up signs. That’s not a solution. The restaurant needs to be designed in such a way that people can find their way around without the use of signs. You can’t just write a sign to compensate for every problem. It becomes an excuse to ignore underlying issues.

Manager: So you want us to bring in an architect and redesign the whole restaurant?

Cook: Yeah, that’s what should happen.

Manager: That’s not in the budget right now.

Cook: Well I don’t know what to tell you then, but signs are not an acceptable solution.

[awkward silence]

Bartender: So I know this isn’t my area of expertise but I must admit that I kind of like signs. I feel like I can read them and they give me information that can be useful.

Cook: No.

Dishwasher: Yeah, I didn’t want to say anything but I also don’t see anything wrong with a few signs here and there.

Cook: No! No, no no. This is bad, guys. If you try to fix all your problems with signs we’ll never truly fix anything.

Manager: Okay, I’m going to schedule another meeting for us to discuss this, and maybe we can take a vote or something. Good meeting, guys. Anything else?

Dishwasher: Can I get my dish machine fixed?

Manager: Talk to maintenance.

Dishwasher: How do I get a hold of him? Should I call or text? Facebook messenger? Skype? Should I drive to his house or should I just enter a work ticket and trust that he’ll see it?

Maintenance: I’m right here, dude. Just talk to me.

Dishwasher: Oh, okay. That’s way easier. So does that mean I don’t need to make a ticket for this?

Maintenance: No, you still need a work ticket. Of course you need a ticket. All tasks must always have an associated ticket. I won’t start work before I have a ticket.

Dishwasher: What should I put in the ticket?

Maintenance: I don’t care. Doesn’t matter.

Dishwasher: So I can just write a bunch of gibberish and attach a picture of my cat?

Maintenance: Yeah, that’s fine.

Dishwasher: So what’s the point of the ticket if it has no relevant information?

Maintenance: It just proves we’re following proper procedure.

Manager: Yes, we must always follow proper procedure, no matter what… just no one mention the coffee maker, okay?

Cook: Okay, so I’m going to go start cooking now if everyone is okay with that.

Manager: Do you already have your tickets?

Waiter: Yeah, I wrote up a ticket for the bun, one for the meat, one for the cheese. I heard it’s okay to put the lettuce tomato and onion into a single ticket. I’m almost done writing that.

Cook: I also need one for the fries.

Waiter: Oh, yes. Almost forgot. I’ll get you a ticket for the fries too.

Manager: Fantastic, guys! This is great. Wonderful communication today. I am so proud of this whole team. We have come a long way. I can truly feel the synergy. Sorry about going over the five minutes but we’ve made some real progress here so I feel it was worth it.

Cook: [returns to the line, cooks the burger, and dings the bell]

Manager: I just verified the order with the customer. He says he’s certain this is what he wants.

Cook: That’s good because I’m pretty much done with it.

Waiter: Wonderful. That looks like what he ordered.

Cook: Cool. The only problem is that the deep fryer is still running its automated diagnostics so it’s going to be another hour for the fries.

Waiter: That’s fine. Okay, I say this looks like what he ordered. However, wasn’t this supposed to come with a side of deep fryer?

Cook: No, it comes with french fries.

Waiter: Oh. So do you have those?

Cook: No. As I said only a moment ago, the fryer needs to run its diagnostics first.

Waiter: Oh, right. Sorry. I thought you were talking about fries, not french fries. I can sell that to the customer somehow. So why can’t you just cook the french fries? Why does it need to run diagnostics every time?

Cook: We need to be sure we aren’t serving the customer frozen fries.

Waiter: Can’t you tell yourself if they’re cooked?

Cook: Yeah, but also it needs to check safety stuff. We don’t want it catching fire and burning the restaurant down. I could check that myself too, but I’m a human and humans are fallible. Computers and automated diagnostics are always reliable. They never fail, no matter what.

Waiter: So why does the diagnostic take so long?

Cook: I don’t know. I think there’s something wrong with it.

Waiter: [takes burger to customer] Here you are. Everything look okay?

Customer: Yes, I think so. Wow. This looks perfect. Everything’s here.

Waiter: Oh, the fries are missing. Those will be out in an hour or so.

Customer: Oh, you’re right. I didn’t notice that. That’s fine. [closely examines burger] Wow. This is amazing. Look at this! This is brilliant. I can’t believe you successfully put cheese on a meat circle. And there’s bacon too, just like I asked for. This is wonderful. You guys must be a truly well-oiled machine back there.

Waiter: Great. I’m glad you like it. That will be eighty-nine dollars.

Customer: No problem. Is that a good price for this?

Waiter: That’s an excellent price for a burger of this shape.

Customer: Wonderful. I love getting a good deal.

Waiter: Good to hear. It’ll be worth even more to you once we bring out the fries.

Customer: But… there’s just one problem.

Waiter: What’s that?

Customer: I decided a moment ago that I don’t like bacon cheeseburgers anymore. Can you make this be a guacamole burger instead?

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