Friday, September 05, 2008

Process: Broken

It's my job (the one I get paid for) to study how people do things, to help them find the best ways to do things, and, ultimately, to design and write software to support the way they do things. I've been doing this for a long time, and so I tend to notice, wherever I happen to be, how people do things. I admire good processes. I shake my head over broken processes.

Starbucks, your process is so broken.

As you may remember, I've recently become a regular at Starbucks. What I'm about to tell you may only apply to the Starbucks stores here in Brevard County, Florida. I don't know if Starbucks are the same everywhere. But in the stores here (and I've been to them all, most multiple times), this is how I think the process is supposed to work:

  1. Cashier employee takes my order and taps it into the system.

  2. System prints out a little label, which barista employee sticks on cup.

  3. Barista employee reads label, makes drink as specified, and delivers to me.

Seems simple, eh? Efficient, even. But it never works that way. The way it actually works varies quite a bit from visit to visit, but here's a good example, from yesterday:

  1. Cashier-dudette took my order and tapped it into system.

  2. Cashier-dudette yelled my order to barista-dude.

  3. Barista-dude yelled back, "What?"

  4. Repeat step 2.

  5. Barista-dude walked over and stared over cashier-dudette's shoulder, reading order as displayed on screen.

  6. Barista-dude walked back and prepared my drink.

  7. Barista-dude peeled label off printer and, without reading it, stuck it on cup containing my already-made drink

  8. Barista-dude handed me my drink

As I said, the actual process varies from visit to visit. But it always involves yelling. And never involves reading the little label.


Hrm, I haven't yet come across a Starbucks that prints anything to stick on a cup, but I've definitely experienced the yelling and the writing of special order code letters on cups.

I like the Peet's system, where the order shows up on a screen near the baristas. Less paper, less yelling. :)
As a drinker of POC (plain old coffee) I like the system of carrying my travel mug into the store, filling it up (without yelling), paying and leaving. A process found in the finest convenience stores across the land.

Remember when fast food joints used to pour your sodas for you? Now they place an empty cup in your general area and you have to fill it yourself. Maybe the day will come when Starbucks uses the same system.
Ah! A Comment from a Coffee Curmudgeon! How great is that!

Fast food joints are just that: fast food. And you do get your refills, at least, faster when you draw them yourself, rather than having to flag down an unmotivated and overworked employee, as we have to do around here at Wendy's. But you can still get someone else to draw your drink for you. You just have to realize that it has a cost, and patronize your local diner or cafe. I recommend the Paugus Diner, myself.

Unfortunately the Paugus Diner isn't on the way to work.
.... and someday Starbucks will realize that the Wendy's system is more profitable, and they will be dispensing 'double latte, choclate sprinkle, double shot of avacado juice, hint of WD40 with a twist of pineapple' from a machine. Hmmmmm... maybe then I'll stop in for one.

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