Tim Hebert
November 09, 2016

ARTICLE: A Coffee Rant - How Many Steps Does it Take to Fill My Iced Coffee?

Let me start off by saying I don’t drink coffee. Ever. Never have. Never will.

Screenshot 2016-11-09 19.22.06.pngSo you’re probably looking at the title of this post, wondering why a non-coffee drinker could possibly be blogging about iced coffee. You can thank my beloved wife for that one.

See my wife loves coffee, specifically a medium iced coffee with cream and sugar. And I like to think I am a pretty awesome husband (or I am trying to get out of trouble) which means I find myself venturing out four to five times a week to pick up, in her words, “the elixir of the gods.” And every time—no matter the coffee house I am at—I leave with a smashing headache. Allow me to explain…

It seems like a simple task but it’s a process that seems riddled with inefficiencies. Watching inefficiencies in action causes an air horn going off inside my head. To begin, I despise the drive-thru; any drive-thru. Something about rolling down my window, ordering via an intercom and pulling up to have an arm shove my order at me seems totally impersonal. To hell with convenience, I’d rather walk through waist-high snow than spend any amount of time at the drive-thru.

So this means I am that person who parks the car, climbs out and—dare I say—walks a few feet inside to order my beverage from a human who I can look directly in the eye. This happens all too often because of my wife’s yearning for her iced coffee.

Here’s the process that unfolds EVERY time, at one place I frequent.

Walking to the counter, I order a medium iced coffee from Betty. She grabs the cup and writes my order on the cup. No air horn, yet!

She walks halfway to what might as well be China to fill the cup with ice. The air horn starts blaring. From the China-based ice station, she ambles across the store to the pitcher that contains the magical elixir my wife craves. My head is hurting.

You would think that the cream and sugar would be next to the pitcher of iced coffee but no! Barista Betty launches herself across the store to a station near the drive-thru window. The cacophony of air horns makes my teeth throb, since the cream and sugar reside nowhere near the iced coffee.

But we are not done yet! The poor barista then traipses around the store to grab the lid, a straw and napkin, completing my order. She turns to me, not sensing my total exasperation, and says, “That will be $2.86.” How could it possibly be this painful to make an iced coffee? I can’t even imagine how long it would take to make a specialty drink, like those hand-crafted Macchiato things; I think my eyeballs would burst.

The good news, though. I survive and have a happy wife.

But why do individuals and organizations operate “business as usual,” even when that “business as usual” is flawed with inefficiencies and waste. Undoubtedly, iced coffee, especially in warmer weather, is a very popular drink. So why don’t coffee shops put the cups, ice, cream, sugar, lids, straws and napkins right next to the iced coffee pitcher so its servers don’t have to run laps behind the register?

My wife thinks I am crazy. Acting like a human Fitbit, counting the number of steps the barista takes (roughly 1 billion) filling my order. It’s even more infuriating that no one else seems to notice. The barista doesn’t notice the inefficiency of the process – it’s just the way it is. Franchises want stellar performance from their stores but have they ever counted the steps? Many chains install LCD panels over their drive-thru windows to measure performance and you can see the stores’ wait times are below their goal.

How often do we struggle to achieve our goals but we do nothing to eliminate the inefficiencies?

So, no matter your line of business and corporate role, I’ll leave you with this: Don’t let your business model be saddled down by inefficiencies, ineptitudes and wastefulness. Force change by recognizing and eliminating waste—streamlining the process when and where possible.

And for gosh sakes, let me walk away with that iced coffee—headache-free—so I can feel like my wife’s hero… if only for a moment.

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