August 28th, 2008


The Restaurant Problem (or, the Problem Restaurant)

There's this cafeteria cooperative near my work and they have a system. There are two doors, and two separate dining areas.

Most people go in the main kitchen. Anyone who complains about anything gets put in the side kitchen from then on, and the only way to be admitted back into the main area is to volunteer for a day. The side kitchen gets slightly worse service and food.

The theory is that it encourages a positive attitude. The regular service staff loves the rule -- they invoke it all the time, and they refuse to consider changing the rule. Anyone who doesn't like the system keeps mum about their concerns, or they end up in the complainer's kitchen for life.

Over the past few years, both kitchens have gotten worse. The volunteer wait list is a mile long, but the regular staff hates the complainers. The main kitchen's food is atrocious (because it can be) and the side kitchen is miserable (because everyone's complaining and the servers are resentful.)

They asked me to come in as a consultant to improve the situation. My usual ideas -- use robots, switch horses, wear dots on your forehead, one always lies andthe other always tells the truth and so on -- aren't working here.

Any advice, folks? Please?