When I began writing for the CU Water Cooler I never envisioned the day when I would find inspiration in a visit to fast food establishment known for delicious tacos and a talking chihuahua but alas, that day is upon us.
In my office we take turns picking up lunch. During this process I have grown to loathe going to certain establishments because of the inconvenience of location, picky orders, employees conspiring against me by leaving out part of my order or the multitude of condiments I requested, or even the lack of drink carriers which makes balancing two Diet Cokes, a Coke, a Dr. Pepper, and a Sweet Tea (yes I live in Georgia) a little bit of a pain. And yet I endure these ventures mostly because I like to eat, but also because I like my co-workers enough to take my turn.
There was nothing spectacular about today’s lunch order, or so I thought. I pulled up to the lunch spot and much to my chagrin there was a line of cars stretching into the road. No, it was not Free Taco Tuesday. I checked. I had no idea why half the population of our small town decided they wanted a delicious Cool Ranch Taco Locos on the same day that I did. If I had been on my own I would have huffed, rolled my eyes, and kept on down the street. But I had hungry co-workers awaiting my return with their delightful south of the boarder treats so what did I do? I decided to go inside. That would be quicker, surely!
I got inside and decided that I must be batting a thousand because not only was the drive-thru line wrapped around the building I was the tenth person in line among a multitude of aspiring Nachos Bell Grande eaters. I contemplated leaving and going somewhere else. After all we eat out often enough, and I’ve worked with these people long enough to be able to order for them at another restaurant. My desire for savory goodness of Doritos mixed with tacos again won the internal battle as I faced the line and eventually placed my order.
I found a waiting spot amidst the other hungry, irritated customers because let’s face it, this is not one of those “worth waiting for” places, but then something incredible happened. In the kitchen making those long awaited tacos was the most pleasant, quickest taco maker I have ever seen. You would think a person in his situation would have at a minimum seemed stressed. Heck, with the number of people this sole kitchen worker was trying to feed I wouldn’t have blamed him if he threw his hands up in the air and walked out the back door. But no, he was positive and upbeat, flying through orders like it was no big deal. Joyous even. It was literally the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced. I stopped counting the minutes as they ticked by and just simply stood back to observe this kid's rhythm as he accelerated through the orders, never missing a beat, an ingredient, calling customers by name, smiling as he handed them their order only to be met by scowls of hungry people who just wanted their cheese rollups with a side of pintos. And yet he was completely unaffected by it.
I eventually got my food just as someone was coming back from their break. I had this whole speech made up in my head to deliver to the taco kid about how appreciative I was to have been able to witness the care he took as he delivered people their lunch. None of which he got to hear as his co-worker grabbed my bag and yelled “Mr. Amy? I have a 14 item order for Mr. Amy.”
On the car ride back to my office I had time to reflect on what I learned from the taco kid and what I think we can apply to what we do every day.
Know your product
I cannot put in words the quickness at which the taco kid flew around that kitchen. Not only did he fully understand the tools at his disposal and how to use them he knew his products inside and out. Multiple orders, for multiple people, done in various ways and he never missed a single shred of lettuce, or glob of sour cream. He knew exactly what he was doing and the best way to make sure he got it all done. Imagine the possibilities if our staff knew our product line as well as the taco kid. If all they needed to instigate the perfect “bite” for our members was a quick glance at a screen and then they flew into action.
Know what your members want
We wanted our tacos, and we wanted them now. The taco kid could have stood in the back overwhelmed, not worried about the time, and completely unsympathetic to the fact that he had a building full of people and a parking lot full of people all waiting on him. But he didn’t crumble. He moved with speed, and grace. He called people by name and delivered every bag into the hand of a customer with a smile, have a good day, and sorry you had to wait. I think he genuinely cared about delivering a good product quickly and efficiently.
So while the taco kid was whipping out tacos alone he never once stood still or was quiet. He was in constant communication with the people taking the orders, the customers, and honestly a little with himself as he talked his way through his process. The point here is that everyone knew what was happening now, what was coming next, and how it was going to be done. Do we communicate this effectively with our teams and do they communicate that effectively with each other?
In this silly story about a lunch trip that took way longer than it should have, I find resolve because I learned this: In the midst of chaos all you can do is smile make one taco at a time. Let’s all be more like the taco kid.
Amy Etheridge lives in Warner Robins, Georgia. She is the Electronic Marketing Coordinator at Robins Federal Credit Union. Amy started her credit union career 10 years ago as a teller, worked in branch operations, and has found her calling in the marketing department. The thoughts posted here are her own, and do not reflect those of her employer.