Monday, November 14, 2011

Choosing Excellence

On hurry:
"We worship at the shrine of the Golden Arches, not because they sell "good food," or even "cheap food," but because it is "fast food." Even after fast food was introduced, people still had to park their cars, go inside, order, and take their food to a table, all of which took time. So we invented the Drive-Thru Lane to enable families to eat in vans, as nature intended." (John Ortberg)

Fast food restaurants were created to feed people quickly and easily. That is why they exist, and that purpose is reflected in how they are run, with an emphasis primarily on speed and convenience of service.

I had been craving a cookie dough shake awhile back. Ortberg can say what he will about fast food -- and he's generally right -- but Arctic Circle makes a mighty tasty cookie dough shake. I wasn't looking for anything else fabulous, just ice cream. That was my expectation when I arrived.

And the shake was quite good. But what stuck with me from the experience was the people. They greeted me promptly, were genuinely invested in serving customers, busied themselves with cleaning during slow times, and even came to bus my table after I'd finished my food. Each one was polite -- to customers and to fellow employees -- and everyone seemed to be working pretty hard.

The employees could have figured it's "just fast food," not a fancy restaurant. Most were young, too, perhaps high school age. My guess is they don't see this as a lifelong career, so their excellence probably isn't motivated by the possibility of climbing the restaurant ladder. They could probably meet basic expectations, earn a little money, and go home satisfied with being average, but they didn't. Rather than settle for mediocre, they worked with excellence.

And that? It's not just about speed. It says something admirable about character.

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