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Getting the Order Right PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 23 August 2007
AFF Sentinel Vol.4#29

You Think Fast Food Orders Are Tough?

A fast food chain is being sued by a man who ordered a double hamburger without cheese. He claims he told employees at multiple points in the process that he cannot eat cheese, according to Bill Handle, of Handle on the Law, a syndicated radio show. The man went home, took the bag into a darkened room to watch a movie and, without checking, took a bite. The hamburger mistakenly had cheese on it. The man was rushed to the emergency room with a severe allergic reaction.

We patronize a whole list of hamburger chains. I have a secret to reveal. They don't always get the order right! Shocking? I swear it's true.

It still baffles us how difficult it is for all fast food production lines just to get the order right. This is with only two or three people handling the order components, all in one kitchen, while processing 15- 20 orders in a 15-minute span. The world's best process flow experts have, so far, obviously failed to solve this problem.

Yet, for a supposedly negligible cost that industry could easily absorb, with accuracy sufficient to satisfy U.S. government inspectors, legal challenges and insurance underwriters, the do-gooders expect the beef industry to track each piece of meat in a production chain typically extending over one to two years, thousands of miles, multiple ownership changes and volume disassembly at speed due to the perishability of the product, into roughly 300 separate packages per animal. Who's kidding whom here? This mCOOL is not something easily accomplished by the stroke of a legislative pen.

To expect those 300 pieces of perishable meat to be treated the same way as a manufactured piece of hardware that can be warehoused without A.C. for weeks is ludicrous.

This is an undertaking similar to the overhaul of our airline system after 9/11. That's been painless, right? Except that 27 million fed cattle multiplied by 300 packages comes to over seven billion packages a year to track. Way more than plane flights taken by intelligent (?) humans who carry identification at all times.

Claims that consumers are willing to pay for origin information belie all the comparison-shopping, advertising special shopper response and coupon- clipping behavior learned in decades of retail experience. If everyone was that concerned about the exact origin of their food, the substantial premium that Whole Foods charges for their food with origin information would not have limited them to a tiny fraction of the market. While the big supermarkets are offering additional origin information on some of their "natural" lines, origin is still an attribute for which the overwhelming majority of consumers - as opposed to activists - are not interested in paying a substantial premium, even with "natural" production included.

Claims that consumers consider origin highly important have been taken out of context. Asked if they'd like to know where their food comes from, most consumers will say, "Yes." However, if asked to rank attributes in order of importance, research shows tenderness, taste, food safety, price and other concerns all rank over origin, which comes in near the bottom of the top ten.

People feel they know where their food comes from: McDonald's or Burger King or Kroger or Safeway. That's what slack-jawed shoppers grapple with whenever a blizzard empties the shelves.

The notion that food is different because we put it in our bodies is the same flawed reasoning that allows wide-eyed liberals to say that all citizens have a "right" to free healthcare because it is critical to life or we have a "right" to a good job so we can pay our bills (or taxes). Some even include the "right" to affordable housing and a car. Food safety is critical - that's why we have food inspection, not origin labeling.

Ranchers do complain that consumers don't understand where their food comes from. To expect consumers to understand, and pay substantial cost for, the complexities of tracking every stop for an individual package, when they don't consider it a high priority and it would not provide food safety, is faulty reasoning.

All mCOOL proponents pushing such a proposition are preying upon fears of the unknown, perpetrating the worst kind of Big Brotherism, unjustly penalizing just certain parts of agriculture and deceiving consumers.

They're not getting the order right.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 October 2007 )
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