In the eastern North Carolina community of Elizabethtown, there’s a storefront restaurant called Melvin’s Hamburgers. It’s a classic hole in the wall joint, a place you normally wouldn’t stop unless you knew the treasures that awaited you inside. Melvin’s has been around since 1938, it’s made the “Top 100 Places to Eat in the State” list, and when we were visiting some friends in the area a few weeks back, it was a place they insisted we visit for Saturday lunch.
Saturday lunch at Melvin’s is somewhat like Black Friday at the mall. Parking is next to impossible, people are everywhere, and the line wraps from the register, to the back of the store, to the dozen or so booths along the wall, and back out the front door. Weekend water lovers show up on their way to or from White Lake (just down the road), grocery-shopping moms are wrestling restless preschoolers, and blue collar service techs are stopping in for a quick bite on the way to another call.
You would think that the recipe for frustration is ripe in a crowded place like Melvin’s, but the folks there have service down to a science. When we first arrived, I gave our hosts one of those “are-you-kidding-me?” looks because of the length of the line. They grinned and assured us we’d have our food in no time.
And we did. The line never stopped moving because the crew behind the counter processed us with military precision: one lady took orders and cash and wrote the items on a paper sack, another lady called the orders to the cooks and wrapped and bagged the finished product, two ladies prepped the burgers and dogs any way you wanted ’em, and another three or four manned the stove to crank out a never-ending line of meat.
Lines are normally a source of frustration. Not at Melvin’s, because the experience and expertise of the team behind the counter was a show in itself. Watching them work trumped any exasperation we may have felt in having to wait.
What are the sources of frustration that people experience in your organization? If you’re part of a church, maybe it’s the communication (or lack thereof) that keeps people from getting connected. If you’re in management, it could be outdated systems that prevents employees from getting their job done with efficiency.
Perhaps a better question is this: where can you apply expertise in order to alleviate exasperation? “Lines” are a natural part of organizational life. How we entertain those who are waiting in line can make the difference between causing frustration and creating a fan.