Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Subway System

I like Subway. But I have some concerns. No matter how hard I try to emphasize how little I want, I always end up with way too much sauce. 

Today I got a Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki (I do not know why it is teriyaki) and I forgot to say "just a little" in response to if I want sauce and my sandwich was baptized in sweet onion sauce. It was not a Catholic baptism either. Even the times I do plead for as little mustard, mayo, vinegar or oil, I still end up with way too much. From a cost minimizing/utility maximizing approach this makes no sense to me.

I have a little fast food experience. In high school I worked for the famous In-N-Out Burger. I recall in a staff meeting we were instructed to give 3 ketchup packets by default and more only when requested. Most people never use very much kethup (just check the trash bags) and it saves money to only give extra to those who ask. The other thing I noticed in working fast food is you get into a rythym doing the task assigned to you. When something comes up to break the rythym, it is moderately frustrating (maybe I am the minority here.) Filling up empty ketchup containers, fetching more packets, replenishing the condiment holders or any other extra task completely although momentarily halted the assembly line.

So back to Subway. When the "Sandwich Artists" load the sauce on, not only is it costly to the franchise, but it empties out the sauce shooters faster than if they put on a paletable amount. I can only imagine gliding through sandwiches, getting faster and faster, feeling the groove and the worst thing happens -- you pick up the mustard bottle and its empty! Hold the line! Stop the process. Backup the sandwiches, gotta reload! How frustrating is that? So I see franchise and employee level incentives preventing sauce overload. 

Somehow these incentives just do not get the job done. Even my high pitched "tiny" only contains the damage at best. I am stumped. Next footlong I am going to try to walk them through the process, "Put 3 spots on there. If you feel the need to cover the entire sandwich with a thin layer, use the oversized butter knife thing." After that I will sound like the crazy guy who has VERY particular taste.

One last thing. If we take the word artist off the apron, will it help the line move any faster? Sometimes the condiment person is great. Sometimes you get Van Gogh back there placing the pickles symmetrically atop the tomatoes so you will get pickle in every bite. It is a great plan until you smother the thing in mustard so you cannot taste anything anyway. Then you wrap and roll the thing into paper only managing to fold it with the assistance of a machete. By the time that thing is unrolled on the table and on the way into my mouth half of the condiments have fallen out anyway.

I ate Subway for lunch today. I found a nice secluded table so I could compose this post in my mind as I ate. 


  1. ...not a Catholic baptism... HA!
    I am now craving a nice veggie delight. Thanks.

  2. Mike - I'm flattered.

    Jeff - Very funny. I like the high pitched "tiny" best. I think that part of the employees incentives must be the cost to them personally for over- or under-saucing. If they go light, the customer might make a stink, call them stingy or something. If they go heavy all they have to worry about is the customer sitting at a secluded table with his PC ranting on-line.