This story is from 9/2/2005. Following it is our visit on 12/18/2015.
"You don't even want to think of going in there! It took us fifteen minutes to get a cup of cheese."
I nervously smiled at the teenage couple as they walked by and shook their heads with one of those, go ahead, but we warned you looks. This was my second bad omen in twenty minutes. The first came when Rosemary gave me her order. Rosemary's fast food orders wreak terror and havoc upon these establishments. And my ensuing verbal instruction for these less than normal orders usually elicits a cow-looking-at-a-dollar stare.
Needless to say, when I walked into an empty lobby, I tentatively let out a sigh of relief. The twelve cars backed up in the drive-thru line however, did eventually prove to be Taco Bell's undoing.
I mention in my About page there would be no negativity or criticism in Rothacker Reviews. It is my hope that the Taco Bell-type stories I discuss here, be thought of as windows into real life classrooms. The opportunities to learn from these businesses or people are yours for the taking.
This Taco Bell was unique in that the only thing behind the registers was a block wall with one of those police interrogation-room windows in it. All food preparation took place around the corner and out of sight. This would have driven Rosemary nuts. She watches food prep like a lion watches a wounded bison. One wrong move and she pounces.
A loud and vocal uproar began wafting from behind the wall one minute after I had given my order. Near as I could tell, two managers were expecting eighth grade results from first grade students. The frustration in one manager's voice was slightly masked by an incredible effort to be tolerant. He was slowly losing the battle. In the next five minutes, ten people swarm the lobby and the drive-thru line doesn't appear to be moving. The pressure is mounting as the other manager sends a round of fire into two lads starting their shift. "You got name badges? she asks. Well put em' on!" Those of us who were waiting exchanged worrisome smiles. They couldn't really be killing small farm animals on the other side of the wall, could they?
In spite of their vocal outbursts, I strongly sensed these two managers were trying to do the right thing and are capable of pulling this team together. A good start would simply be for them to set clear expectations for their associates. And then, make sure those associates are trained sufficiently enough to perform up to their expectations.
After receiving my order, I didn't have the strength or stamina to open up each item to verify Rosemary's have-it-your-way request. I ended up lucking out and avoided a tongue lashing myself. They got her order right!
12/18/2015 - A couple of people are standing around waiting for their orders to be complete so we were feeling pretty good about getting in and out. Fifteen minutes later and only two people are still waiting ahead of us. Rosemary's orders are still the same. Their effect on the establishment however, has changed. I swear there are times when the orders have shut down Taco Bell's corporate IT center. So we assumed that the New Tampa location was struggling trying to put it together. To a degree that was the case.
We overhear a manager commenting to other customers that three of her coworkers are late for work. We finally get our order, check it at a table for accuracy and then leave. They did screw up one part of Rosemary's order but she didn't have the patience to take it back. Walking out the door at five minutes to the top of the hour, we pass three teenagers reporting for work.
Now what are the odds that three young people late for work all show up at the same time, minutes before the top of the hour?
I think this manager or another manager there got the location into scheduling trouble and conveniently threw the young people under the bus.
Ten years ago I used to use example like these as teaching moments for managers. I no longer have patience for that.