Dear Fast-food Franchise Owner:

I want to thank you. I teach employers how to improve workplace decision-making and my experience this morning was a perfect example of how even small decisions can have a cumulative impact on profitability. I stopped by your restaurant at Belleview and Kipling at about 7:45AM for a small decaf coffee with two creams. The young man behind the counter took my money, handed me a receipt and then walked away to do something else. I sat down and set up my laptop to write my weekly column.

After about ten minutes, it dawned me that the coffee had not come up at the counter and no one had brought it around. I went up to the counter. The young man who had taken my money saw me and said, “Oh yeah. The decaf is brewing.”

After another five minutes, I went up to the counter again. The young man saw me and said to a manager, “Hey, we need a small decaf at the counter.” The manager, without appearing to pay attention said, “Ok” and continued to prep other orders. This kind fascinated me. So I began to study the manager and how he worked – methodically, low energy, no apparent investment in what he was doing.

I waited another five minutes, watching him all the while. Nothing changed. He didn’t communicate with anyone around him. He just continued to prep orders. No conversation. No encouragement. No collaboration. Nothing but a blank stare as he went about his tasks. Meanwhile, the young man got something to eat and sat down at a table across from the counter. At one point, our eyes met and I could see he was thinking, “Oh yeah. Small decaf.” But he did nothing to resolve the issue.

Finally, I’d had enough. I waited at the empty counter and eventually the manager came over and asked, “What can I get you?”

I said, “I’ve been waiting 20 minutes for a small decaf with two creams, but at this point I just want my buck back. Without saying a word, he punched a few buttons on the register, handed me a dollar and walked away. I wanted to say to him, “Don’t you care at all?” but I don’t think it would have sunk in.

I have to wonder how many times in a shift the ball in this restaurant gets dropped because no one has empowered the young man to fix a simple problem, in an environment where the manager couldn’t care less. I realize you’re in a volume business where you may write off customer concerns like this. And yes, I will probably end up at this store again because it is convenient. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not offering my services to you. I just thought you’d like to be reminded that some of us are actually watching.

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