Hmmm...On another server, I saw someone defending CP on this issue, but it
hasn't showed up here. What a pity. Anyway, here's my response...
Did we strike a nerve, Mike?
While we were all complaining about slow food service at Cedar Point in
particular...but at amu***t parks in general...Mike Schulte suggested
that part of the problem is the lack of seating in the parks.
This makes sense, to a point. I also received notoriously slow service at
a frozen custard stand where there is *no* seating...it is a walkaround
item. Admittedly, the service was faster than at the regular food stand,
but there were still four people in the little booth, all trying to serve
customers from a single custard freezer.
I think the biggest problem with food service...and let me emphasize that
the problem is by no means limited to Cedar Point; it's just that CP has so
many guests that the problem is worse there...has to do with the structure
of the food stands. There are generally multiple lines feeding multiple
walk-up windows. Behind the window, there is a cashier at each window, who
is responsible for assembling your entire meal. At stands where the
product is kept ready (as in the case of the mini-burritos I had last time
I was at the Po!nt), the cashier takes your order, then wanders all over
the service facility gathering all of the elements you require from their
various hiding places. Then you collect your meal, and try to find
someplace to dine. The problem with this is that there are several
cashiers all trying to do this at once. Because behind-counter resources
are limited (ice-cream freezers, warming bins, soda fountains, etc.), these
people have to compete with each other for space.
The problem is worse at stands where food is "cooked to order". There, the
distribution of labor is comparable to the other walk-up stands, in that
multiple cashiers take orders and forward those orders to the preparation
people, who prepare the meals and hand them back to the cashiers, who then
match the meals up to the waiting customers. Here, once the customer has
placed his order, he must wait for it to be prepared. This is not such a
bad thing, except that there is no place for the customer to stand: A few
feet to the right is another cashier trying to serve another line of
customers. Meanwhile, the cashier who served this customer cannot take
another order because there simply isn't enough space. Furthermore, waits
are extended as the preparation crew is overwhelmed with orders coming from
four or five different cashiers. It's a wonder that such a stand can
function at all with this kind of chaos. It appeared to me that the people
running the stand were working very hard, just not making much progress as
they waited for each other, tripped over each other, and generally tried to
do too many things at once.
It just so happens that a major fast-food operation deals quite nicely with
this very same problem. Customers approach a single cashier, place their
orders, and pay. Then, the customer steps down a few feet, forming a line
of people who are waiting for cooked-to-order food. Orders are transferred
one-at-a-time to the preparation crew, which makes up the orders in
sequence and passes the finished product to the waiting customer.
Meanwhile, as the customer is waiting for his meal, the cashier rings up
another sale. It makes so much sense, I can't understand why amu***t
parks haven't adopted it.
Actually, some have. Kennywood, for instance, has a hamburger stand in its
old carousel pavilion which operates in this way. The park has freshened
it up a little with a queue rail and turnstile, but in general, the concept
is the same. The result is a food line that actually *moves*. And the
usual crush and confusion of people trying to leave the stand with their
lunches is eliminated, since there is a defined traffic flow. I'd imagine
that cash control is probably better as well, with fewer registers open,
and I think the personnel needs are equal or less than required with the
more traditional operation.
Just another $1.75 on the subject...
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
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