My first few jobs were in retail, restaurants mostly.
I have a mental library of stories from my experience in the food industry. The bad experiences are usually the first to come to mind.
One of the most chaotic and least profitable work days that I recall happened during a busy lunch rush. The restaurant was packed and I was responsible for attending to more guests than corporate would have approved.
But so was the rest of the staff. We had a very lean shift that day.
Then the computers crashed.
Our restaurant relied on this computer system for every aspect of operation. The most immediate problem was the communication block between the kitchen and the staff. We couldn’t place orders, prep food, print bills or close tabs. Business was at a standstill.
Our manager quickly pulled out an “emergency kit.” It was a plastic box that contained archaic tools for operation such as a calculator, a manual credit card swiper, and a tax and tip calculation chart.
Servers had to look up prices in menus and calculate bills. That is, for the fraction of customers that were patient enough to stick around.
Before long the managers started telling customers that their meal was ‘on the house.’
New orders had to be written down and handed to the kitchen staff who taped them in a row across the hot window. One by one the cooks attempted to read what the servers had written. If they couldn’t figure the ticket out (we all had our own shorthand styles) the server had to go back and explain it.
Our vibrant restaurant slowed to the pace of a mom & pop diner. And that is not what our business lunch customers expected. And they let us know. Like I said, bad experiences are usually the ones that stick with you. We lost some customers that day.
One of my regular customers, a friendly sales guy that came in at least once a week, was extremely frustrated. He had brought a potential client to lunch that afternoon.
Employees made minimal tips that day and the store lost thousands of dollars in revenue. On the back end, managers had a huge task ahead of them coming up an accurate report for the day. How could they know for certain how much inventory, taxes, and tip-share to record? The computer system normally tracks that for them.
The trickle-down affect of that day was painful. Because inventory was unaccounted for, the next truck shipment was off, resulting in the store running out of food & supplies for weeks to follow. The store dropped dramatically in sales numbers, prompting a visit from corporate.
All because the network went down for 4 hours.
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