Monday, October 5, 2009

The Fast Food Chicken Dilemma

One question for you:
What if someone told you that you were going to have to serve chicken less well-done in order to make it through the lunch rush?

Let's say you are working in a fast-food restaurant that is attempting to keep up with Chick-Fil-A and KFC and Brown's Fried Chicken. Speed and quality are important, but you are a fast food drive-up, so the audience is a little forgiving.

Now you find out that the other local drive-up chicken joints are selling more chicken than you are on Sundays. The management suspect the product is not being prepared fast enough. They remind you that quality is important, but sometimes you just have to ship the product if you want to compete, no?

You are only the fry cook. Your manager makes three times as much as you do, drives a much nicer class of car, dresses better, probably has more years of management experience than you have fry cook experience. He probably knows what he's talking about, and he can certainly fire you even if he doesn't.

You know what it means to under-cook chicken. Your steady customers will never forget one bout with food poisoning, and will quit showing up if they feel your food isn't safe. Food safety has legal ramifications. Yet, you have got to keep up in the fried chicken wars if you want to survive in this industry.

Will you cook product ahead of time, and let it sit under the lights? Will you operate a larger number of fryers? Experiment with some new techniques (pressure-cook, then fry)? Would you use smaller portions of chicken? Would you skip the breading stage of the cooking? Increase or decrease the batch size and chicken piece mix? Mess with the heat? Trim a few minutes off the cooking timer and hope for the best?

Knowing that there is a real business problem and that you are only a fry cook, what will you do?

Finally, consider that you're talking about software, not chicken.