11 May McDonald’s vs. Chick-fil-A.
What’s your fast food guilty pleasure?
Don’t say the Outback or the Olive Garden. Those aren’t fast food technically. Those are sit down restaurants. Those aren’t guilty pleasure. I’m talking about the place you go when you’re alone on a business trip. The place you only go through the drive thru. The place that serves food you eat in the car on a road trip.
For me, that’s Taco Bell. I just can’t quit the Bell.
I make terrible food choices there, ordering multiple items even though I know they’re all constructed from the same seven ingredients served from a squirt gun strong enough to deliver beans.
McDonald’s doesn’t feel that way. I’ll sit in a McDonald’s and not worry if anyone sees me. I don’t eat McRibs, because I’m not crazy, but I never feel shame about an egg McMuffin. Recently though,dr I saw something in their parking lot that surprised me.
I saw this sign in a location on the North Shore of Massachusetts.
Why was this interesting to me?
Because it’s a sign showing you where to park if you use the drive-thru.
Can we please agree that 50% of the words in “drive-thru” are “drive.”
The whole point of a drive-thru is that you don’t have to park. You don’t have to stop. You get to stay in your car, moving about your day. Sure, you could always park and go in, but you’re an on the go person. You’re making moves and getting stuff done. You’re too busy to go inside.
So then why does this sign even exist?
It started the way a lot of things start, McDonald’s identified a problem.
The drive-thru wasn’t working properly. Instead of receiving food at the second window, customers were told to pull over and park. Sometimes, there weren’t any close parking spots and they had to circle the building waiting for a Big Mac, like a hamburger shark. This is a breakdown in the system, but things don’t always go perfectly, especially at a fast food restaurant.
At this point, McDonald’s had two choices:
1. Fix the drive-thru so that people got their food faster.
2. Print up a parking sign.
One approach takes effort and practice and deliberate thought.
The other requires a printer who can do waterproof signs and access to a pole.
You will face problems in your job.
You will face problems in your business.
You will face problems in your life.
When you do, you will be offered two choices:
1. Fix it.
2. Patch the symptom.
The first is not always simple. I worked with Chick-fil-A and they faced this same obstacle. To deal with it, they built a life-sized drive thru and studied every inch of the experience. During busy times, you’ll see trained staff members taking orders outside the restaurant so that the car line doesn’t get that long. Car by car, the smiling employee walks down the lot to check on orders.
In Georgia, they had a small podium in the drive thru line that was staffed with an incredibly helpful team member. They kept the busy restaurant hopping and ensured fast service.
Have you ever seen a McDonald’s staff member outside with a clipboard making sure the ordering process is working smoothly?
The second approach is easier. Let’s not even pretend.
It’s easier to put a band aid on a big wound than it is to go to rehab. It’s easier to sweep a relationship under the rug than it is to repair it. It’s easier to move on than it is to stay and fight. It’s easier to buy a bigger pair of jeans than it is to eat kale, which tastes like wet sadness.
But when you do that, you miss the magic that happens when you’re brave.
You miss the magic of a long term fix to a real problem.
You miss the magic of what happens when you actually care.
You end up with a sign but the same amount of frustrated customers.
Problems we patch don’t get better, they just get bigger. That’s the real damage. When you ignore real problems, it sends a message through your entire team that shortcuts are OK. The easy way out is the best way. Difficult solutions are not to be explored. The customer doesn’t matter.
Don’t ignore the problem.
Fix the problem. Save the day. Screw the sign.
The drive-thru was meant for driving, not parking.
P.S. Every Thursday, I write ideas like this for entrepreneur’s. If that’s you, don’t miss the next one. Sign up for the Entrepreneur’s List.