The line didn’t seem that long. I’ve been in longer lines waiting for food. The menu showed three lunch options, likely for efficiency’s sake. I expected the line to move along quite rapidly.
Twenty-five minutes later the line felt more like eternity.
There was one line and two windows (which is the most efficient way even if it “feels” longer). That wasn’t the problem. Shortly into our wait we saw the problem. Once you ordered at one of the two windows you had to wait to the side of the window until your tray arrived several minutes later.
With every group that ordered, I watched them do the dance with the next in lines as the food trays were shepherded out the window. Whose order was whose? Which way do I go? How do I get past the crowd at the window to get to the seating area? Where is the ketchup stand?
The hardest part was the watching and waiting, seeing there was a more efficient way.
With two windows it would have been easy to take the order at the first window and pick up the food at the second window. The line headed toward the first window anyway. The second window was closer to the ketchup and the seating. Those who had ordered wouldn’t feel like they were inconveniencing the line behind them while they waited for their food.
This was one place where an assembly line style of serving would have made total sense.
Here’s the kicker. I was standing in line at the lunch stand at Greenfield Village, part of the Henry Ford Museum campus. I’m pretty sure Henry Ford is kinda known for taking the assembly line concept to a whole new level?
One would think they could take some inspiration from the man whose name was on the building.
The lesson in all this is that you should always be looking at ways to improve what you do. Find the inefficiencies and decide whether they are better or worse for the customer. If worse, look around you for inspiration how to fix them.
Henry Ford got his inspiration for the assembly line from the Chicago meat cutters and their disassembly line. When I needed a better way to hire and train my staff I got my inspiration from the potter. When radio stations had unsold ad slots, they learned from the airlines “standby” passengers.
Your business has inefficiencies, some that quietly annoy your customers. The lunch line at Greenfield Village fortunately wasn’t enough to ruin an otherwise fabulous visit to a fabulous place, but it was enough to make me write about it. And that should be reason enough for you to find those annoyances in your business and clean them up.
PS There is an ice cream place here in town with the same two-window inefficiency. A clerk leans through a tiny window to write your order on a scratch pad. Then you step to the side and wait while she takes the next person’s order. Two or three orders later, there is a crowd hovering around the window waiting to grab whatever cold creamy concoction might get thrust out. Order at one window, pick it up at the next. The fast food joints have all learned this. Why can’t the others?
PPS If you get a chance to visit Greenfield Village (and I highly recommend it!!) make sure you stop by the Working Farm. It doesn’t get the hype of the Model T Ride or Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park recreation, but it was my favorite stop in the village. (Just plan a few extra minutes for the lunch line near Main Street.)