Evan Benton
Staff Writer
Working in the food industry is hard work.
It’s complicated, what with concentrating on both efficiency and excellence, all the while under the scrutinizing, often unfair eyes of the customer.
Campus dining, if successful, must be characterized by either exceptionally fast service or large buffet-style choices. Failure at efficiency creates long lines of dissatisfied, angry customers.
To combat this, particular George Mason University dining facilities like Sub Connection, Taco Bell and the popular new Burrito Del Rey have an assembly line method of service to enhance efficiency. However, this often thrusts both worker and consumer into disorganized chaos.
The effect of this assembly line is most obvious at Sub Connection, Mason’s answer to Subway, in the Johnson Center atrium.
Three predominantly Latina workers stand in line. The first takes care of the bread, meat, cheese and the most important question, “toasted?” The second handles the toasting, and the third plants the vegetables, pours the condiments and wraps the sandwich.
Pretty good system, right?
Well, make the line 15 people long (with more on the way), make anything below a shout nearly impossible to hear—like it is any weekday at noon in the JC—and problems begin.
To combat this, Sub Connection usually adds another employee. But the results, while good-intentioned, only add to the confusion.
The wrong kind of cheese ends up on your sub, it’s not toasted when you want it to be, or maybe you get the wrong sub completely, compliments of an assembly line trying to serve so many it winds up confusing everyone.
And with the presence of a language barrier as thick as the Berlin Wall, these complications become even more difficult.
I’ve often noticed that Mason diners who speaks decent Spanish have it made. Their meal, no matter how complicated, is made just the way they want, and the workers, impressed and happy to hear the customer speaking their language, beam.
As for me, I don’t know Spanish as well as I should, and when I try to blurt something like “no tomate” or “salsa verde por favor” I get distrustful glances because of my obvious accent problems, so I revert back to English.
A good 50 percent of my time spent at one of the three assembly line-based franchises listed earlier involves confusing interaction and lackluster result.
This week at Burrito Del Rey, located in SUB I where lines are always long, one worker was so rushed she moved onto the next tray of goodies to put in my burrito.
Before I could say a word she was already spooning it in, like it or not. When she moved to cheese and I said, calmly, “Can I have more lettuce?” she nodded and plopped in some cheese.
Whatever, a little cheese won’t kill me. I understand.
This article isn’t a discourse on why these workers aren’t assimilating linguistically, but how the pressure put on the shoulders of these workers makes an already stressful and confusing situation volatile.
Ladies, what’s the rush?
So you piss off some hung over student because he’s waiting an extra two minutes. What’s the worst that could happen? They’ll be back.
With the small amount of dining choices, despite the constant growth, one can’t eat the same thing forever. And if they can, they’ll be replaced by 10 more who can’t.
Rushing to create a poor product isn’t what the assembly line is made for. If the machine can’t keep up, it must be replaced, or at least mended.
The assembly lines at Sub Connection and Burrito Del Rey do the job, but not well. And a college striving to grow culinarily should not settle for less.
If they think they can meet the demands of each customer and do it quickly, they’re wrong. They obviously can’t. Don’t stubbornly attempt what can’t be done – try something new.
Slow down. Be patient. Take your time. And listen.
And as a customer, food served fast is important to me. But I’d rather take one extra minute of my day to make sure it’s done right than eat something I don’t want.