One year after I wrote about teenagers being done with their adult corporate bosses, my wife had a "straw that broke the camel's back" moment at Wendy's. I would like to share it with you, then tell you my personal favorite antidotes over the past year. (Yes, I know I eat fast food way too much.)
I pulled up to Wendy's at 6:30 PM yesterday.
"Welcome to Wendy's I'll be right with you."
Looked in front of me, no cars in line. That should have been a red flag.
Waited 3 minutes.
"Can I take your order?"
Yes, I would like a #5-
"I'm sorry we are all out of chicken"
I turned to my wife, 'well what's your next option?'
Ask if they have baked potatoes.
I asked the girl my wife's question.
Pause-- "I am sorry we are out of baked potatoes."
Then just give me a large chili and a coke-
"I am sorry we are out of Coke."
I turned to my wife, ' do you just want me to drive away?'
No, no, they have good chili, just get a large chili and a Dr. Pepper.
9 minutes in line from speaker to window for a large chili and a Dr. Pepper, neither of which were in consideration before we pulled up.
Side Note: For many years, I was in Taco Bell management. When I finally quit, I didn't eat there for 6 years.
Right after the school year started in 2021, I drove to the Taco Bell drive thru after work.
"Welcome to Taco Bell, can I take your order?"
Yeah just give me the Quesadilla Meal with a Pepsi.
"I should have told you before you ordered, we are out of all soft flours. No quesadillas, burritos, or soft tacos."
On my way to work in October, I stopped by Burger King for Breakfast.
"Welcome to Burger King, I'll be right with you."
As I sat waiting, I saw a handmade sign on the speaker.
"No Hot Food, Grill isn't Working."
I drove away.
[Let's be clear, Popeye's had bad service before the pandemic even started.]
So in the Spring my kids really wanted Popeye's. We have had nothing but bad experiences at our local Popeye's (North Olmsted, Ohio), so I said 'absolutely not.' Well the family overruled me and decided to do an online order. No problems submitting it, then we went to the physical store. Doors were locked. Went through the drive thru, it was 42 minutes in the drive thru line with 8 total cars in line. We would have pulled away, but we had already paid for our order online.
Now on the other hand, Chik-Fil-A has only had great service every time we went, but about 6 weeks ago, on a Saturday, we decided on Chik-Fil-A and couldn't even get near the restaurant. My son counted over 30 cars in line, but because the line backed out into the street and blocked traffic, we couldn't discern customers from angry commuters.
On vacation in Myrtle Beach this summer, we wanted to try Wahlburgers, so we went to get a table at 6:15 on a weekday. It was packed. I told my wife it would be, at least, a 2 hour wait and we should keep moving. She insisted we try anyways and walked in and was told by the hostess that they were done taking names for the night. Maybe try again the next day, but earlier in the day.
Just a few weeks ago, I walked in and before I could order, the nice young man started, "I am so sorry, we are out of all breads except Flatbread." It was 4:30 PM.
Well, I guess I'll have a Turkey on flatbread....
Now these are only some of the most egregious examples from stores that actually stayed open.
In the last 6 months, you know how many restaurants I have pulled up to during regular business hours and they simply were not open? (It happens to me about once a month now.)
McDonald's, Culver's, Subway, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, KFC & Burger King have all been offenders.
Just pulled up and they were closed.
Now Subway, they don't have a drive-thru, so they get a pass. But the rest of 'em? From experience, it is easy to keep a restaurant open with no dining room access. You don't need anyone to work the front register, all your purchase points are streamlined to the DT, and you really don't have to clean.
Have I ever run a Taco Bell with one person on drive thru register and one one in the kitchen? Uh, too many times to count.
Places like Steak and Shake, that may have had 20 employees working on any given shift, can stay open with no dining room and only 5 or 6 employees working drive thru and online orders.
Now I'm not talking about sit down restaurants with no drive thru or online presence, they, for the most part, have been screwed, I'm talking about fast food restaurants. You notice that despite rolling closures, they aren't closing for good? There's a reason for that explained by basic economics.
We're going to use the Taco Bell Model since I'm very familiar with it. If your Taco Bell made $1,000,000 in the year 2018 (most larger volume, single unit Taco Bell's make that), and 80% of your business was through the drive thru, it is feasible that specific Taco Bell unit made almost the same profit margins during the pandemic. How can that be possible? Let's say your million dollar store only made $750,000 in 2021, but your dining room was never open. You never had to staff the walk in half of your business model. (The under performing part of your business model). If you had 1 less salaried manager, and half of your normal crew, and couple that with the savings on supplies for never having to open your front door, you still made money. Your profit numbers may have been smaller, but your profit percentages, even with terrible service, would be similar. How can I be so sure?
Trust me when I tell you this, Taco Bell closes stores that don't make money. Period, it is that simple. Stores that are open make less money, but they also spend less money. Economics 101. (Or, as your boss call it, the Do-More-With-Less Model.)
Believe it or not, our go-to restaurant has become Arby's. Never any issues with any of the 3 near our home.
Oh, and our local Chinese Restaurant has had consistently good service, Little Hong Kong.
Unrelated Business Side Note: Jeff Bezos is a scumbag - Bezos Ignores Amazon Warehouse Collapse in Favor of Blue Origin Launch