I had a horrible lunch today.

It was the type of small bakery/sandwich shop that we like to go to. There’s always one or two in every town….located in a reclaimed-refurbished building in the older part of town….mismatched furniture…lots of funky local art…interesting people sitting around….freaky spaced-out employees…etc

But today…we stood behind three other people waiting to place orders while the employees stared at all of us from the kitchen.

Finally, I ordered the Cuban sandwich and soup. (It was on the menu) “We stopped serving the Cuban a couple months ago.”….I was told.

I decided not to get a beverage because I would be charged for a refill of iced tea…quite possibly the cheapest beverage to produce and make a profit off of. The cooler of other drinks was nearly empty.

When we went into the dining area, I started to get the highchair for the boy. I left it because it was broken and was “sticky”. He sat on the tabletop.

The wife’s kettle chips and cookie were left in an undisclosed location and had to be searched for by the girl who brought the food to the table.

Her asiago chicken sandwich was missing the chipolte mayo…and oddly, the asiago cheese.

Of my soup and sandwich…the soup was cold. The roast pork sandwich on focaccia (I thought it would be a decent substitution) came out as a “Julia” which was hummus, artichoke hearts, sprouts, etc. I ate it while the pork came out.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Meanwhile, Bowling Green is getting a Panera Bread over in the corporate-mall-generic-no-personality-mall-big-box part of town.

The people won’t be as interesting. There will be no community connection. The employees may be slackers….but they’ll be fired if they slack too much.

But, they’ll (probably) get my order right. The right ingredients will be on my sandwich. I’ll actually have the right sandwich. They’ll give me a “bonus” of some bread (or at least crackers) when I order soup. And it will be hot. I’ll drink as much iced tea as I want for one price. The highchairs will be clean. It will be a “safe” place to eat. And it will get many more customers than the local downtown establishment.

The marketing question is this….why can’t we have both? Why can’t the community place get the SOP right? And why can’t the chain be interesting?

Operations IS marketing…..and you have to build marketing INTO your operations.