Duped Again

ducky, 05 October 2009, 1 comment
Categories: Brand, Food
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I once again experienced one of my personal pet peeves on my latest trip through the drive-thru at a fast food joint. You’ve likely experienced this yourself…

I pull up to the microphone and am promptly greeted by a cheerful voice welcoming me and asking if I’d like to try their latest feature item or special. “No thank you” I say and then I’m greeted by an entirely different, and notably less friendly, voice. Darn it! Duped again.

Whoever started this trend, or anyone that helps perpetuate it, should be looking for new career opportunities.

I understand the motives behind this tactic. Every customer should be greeted promptly. They should be greeted with a clear, friendly and welcoming voice. The restaurant should also be trying to sell their latest feature or special. The recorded greeting accomplishes all of these goals. Then reality kicks in and destroys everything.

If you can’t trust your employees to deliver the proper experience over the drive through speaker, using a pre-recorded greeting should not be considered a good alternative. This fails for several reasons:

The first place I remember this happening was at Kentucky Fried Chicken, but several others have done the same to me. Raising Cane’s does NOT do this – their drive thru personnel always greet me with a cute jingle and keep the energy up throughout the order.

It is important to be genuine with your brand. If you can not be confident your employees can deliver the proper experience, address that issue head on. This isn’t an area that should be solved with technology.

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Friday Breakfasts

ducky, 30 September 2009, No comments
Categories: Brand, Food
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At my place of work, we have a fun tradition of “Friday Breakfasts” together, with breakfast responsibilities rotating through the employees. We have around 20 employees, so this is not as daunting as it might be to supply breakfast for all employees as say, someone at IBM.

Friday Breakfast Menu

Friday Breakfast Menu

For some employees, “Friday Breakfast” responsibilities mean swinging by Panera Bread for bagels, or hitting the local grocery for a box of donuts. Other employees really get into this tradition and deliver more than breakfast. Last Friday, we were treated to menus printed on card stock and cut into narrow cards. These menus arrived on Thursday morning with instructions to circle the ingredients you would like on your cooked to order omelet, along with bread choices, meat choices, and hash browns. Breakfast was served on china with stainless flatware.

While the food was good, it wasn’t the taste of the food that made the experience. It was the details that went into the service that set this breakfast apart – the menus, the flatware, and the team of 3 people that helped prepare the food, including a runner that personally delivered your breakfast to your desk and picked up your plates 30 minutes later. These are the memories that will be remembered from last Friday’s breakfast.

Last night, I had the opportunity to enjoy a dinner at one of Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion restaurants. Dining alone, I was asked if I’d like a seat in the bar area, a regular table, or a kitchen side seat. I opted for the kitchen side seat as that sounded like a great experience. The hostess struck up a conversation with me while escorting me to my seat. No fewer than 3 people greeted me by name within the first 2 minutes after being seated: one for my beverage order, one bringing me a plate of Roy’s Edamame to enjoy, and one delivering a complimentary appetizer. My waiter and one of the chefs in the kitchen followed within the next 2 minutes. I was seated in front of the salad and sushi prep lines, and they greeted me and struck up polite conversation with me as well.

I love cooking and have worked in a kitchen under a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, so I really enjoyed watching the kitchen work together at Roy’s. Every one of the 7 people in the kitchen worked together, with simple vocal queues and gestures to let the others know what was needed and what they were doing. Simple statements like “behind you” or “knife” helped orchestrate their movements about the kitchen. Every person took a high degree of attention to detail to deliver not just food, but an artistic presentation and extraordinary service.

As I was walking out of the restaurant, taking my time and looking around to take in every detail of the place, I was noticed and approached by someone who asked if I was looking for the washroom. Every person at Roy’s was focused on delivering an unforgettable experience. They weren’t simply serving food and they all knew it.

Coming off the experience from last week’s Friday Breakfast, my mind was spinning with ideas for my next turn. I won’t share my plans as they are still being developed, but I will definately be focusing on the presentation and delivery of an experience…

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For the love of BBQ

ducky, 01 August 2009, 1 comment
Categories: Technology
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The grill with 15 pounds of pork inside

The grill with 15 pounds of pork inside

It’s the morning of the block party, and I’m sitting in the driveway, tending to the grill. I love to BBQ. I did not like BBQ sauce or much of anything as a kid, and being raised in Columbus, it’s not like I grew up on the stuff. But I just love it.

I think it’s simply the length of time it takes. That may sound odd, but in a world where most of my time is spent in quick decisions and projects that were due “yesterday”, smoking a pork shoulder all day is extremely relaxing.

Today’s adventure is a whole pork shoulder roast – more than 15 pounds in all. It started 2 days ago with splitting the shoulder in two, and putting on the first coat of dry rub – fresh ground pepper, turbinado sugar, paprika, some kosher salt and a little dry mustard. The grill was fired up late last night, and the pork was placed on the grill at 11:30 PM.

My daughter tried staying up with me to tend to the grill to make sure I hold a steady temperature between 200 and 225 degrees Farenheit. We passed time playing Guitar Hero 80’s edition in cooperative mode, trying to get 5 stars on every song in expert mode. We got pretty far along until she could no longer stay awake – around 1:30 AM. I made it until around 4 AM, then resorted to setting the alarm to go off hourly to monitor the grill.

Fire in the Firebox

Fire in the Firebox

I’ve got a couple temperature probes running right now – one to measure the temperature inside the grill, and the other monitoring the temperature of the meat. I just dropped below 200 on the air temp, so I threw another piece of wood in the firebox.. The temperature is up to 210 now, but climbing quickly – telling me I’ve got fire and not smoldering wood. Time to close down the vents a little to choke the fire out and get a good steady temperature going. Leveling out now at 222 now. Perfect. Internal temperature of the pork is at 154 and it’s 11:30 AM now. Looking right on target for serving at 6 PM tonight.

While I’ve got 2 thermocouples going right now, I’d love to have 4: one monitoring air temperature coming out of the firebox, one around the meat, one monitoring exit air temperature, and one monitoring the meat temperature. I guess that’s just the techie in me wanting to collect all that data. I found this site that sells a system with 3 thermocouples and a built in web server – very cool, but too expensive for this hobby. GeekWithFire.com – now that looks promising, except it only runs on Windows, and every computer in my house runs Linux. Perhaps I’ll just have to build my own.

Boston Butt and Picnic cuts from a single pork shoulder

Boston Butt and Picnic cuts from a single pork shoulder

One last check on the temperatures: air temp is at 224, meat temp 157, at 11:53 AM. And it’s a beautiful day to be sitting outside BBQ’ing!

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Impressive Use of Social Tools in School

ducky, 10 October 2008, 5 comments
Categories: Social Media, Technology
Tags: , , ,
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A very interesting thing happened tonight. My 13 year old daughter was logged into a Moodle account being used by the school district. Her English class added a course to the system and the kids were introduced to the system today.

I was impressed to see the school district using a tool like Moodle to help manage courses, but was more impressed when I saw HOW they were using it, WHAT the kids were saying, and how QUICKLY it was adopted.

Since her class just started on this today, there was only item in the system: a forum discussion topic for the book Flowers for Algernon. The teacher started the discussion with “Should doctors tamper with intelligence?” While this topic only started today, and the kids were only exposed to this tool for the first time today, there are already close to 40 posts on the topic. Not only is the number impressive, but the quality of the posts is amazing. From logical analogies using cancer and smoking as instantiations, to discussing the interpretation of “tamper”, to debating if a possible patient could make a competent decision for themselves, and the social impact if doctors were able and allowed to tamper with intelligence, it was amazing to see the quality of thoughts and ideas.

I have been impressed before with how much better kids seem to collaborate on projects in the classroom than we often do in the workplace. This time I was impressed by the level and quality of independent thought being expressed. The kids also quickly adopted a new technology to them, and will learn a great deal more through this online debate and exchange of ideas.

If this small sample is any indication, we have an impressive generation learning to discuss and debate topics using online forums at an early age. I’m excited to see what this generation brings to the world.

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How do YOU use Twitter?

ducky, 27 September 2008, 2 comments
Categories: Technology
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I’ve been thinking about Twitter a lot lately, trying to better understand it and explain it to others. Very often I hear people that don’t use Twitter saying “I don’t get it.” I usually tell them it is like instant messaging, except you are IM’ing to the world and you can choose who you listen to. The next question is usually a variant of how or why do people use Twitter.

I’m starting to classify the different types of Twitter users based usage patterns.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

People don’t typically stay confined to one of these roles. We are all human and have the right to change! If I’m at a sporting event, I’m typically a play by play announcer, and sometimes provide color commentary. When I’m tweeting from work, I’m more color commentary and some diarist. During home time, I’m predominantly a diarist.

So, how do YOU use Twitter?

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