Stories Like This Prove Big Companies Don’t Always Have Their Act Together…

So, I went out for a lunch the other day to my local Jason’s Deli. Pretty big chain – good, thick Dagwood-style sandwiches, great salad bar, etc. And no, I’m not getting free coupons for plugging them here. Just giving credit where it’s due, since I’m about to do the opposite as well…

Anyway, so while they have all these specialty sandwiches listed on their boards and in their printed menus, at the heart of their offering is a “build-your-own-sandwich” feature. You pick your meat (~ a dozen) and your bread (ditto) and then choose from a bunch of trimmings and condiments.

That’s what I want, so I grab a menu to review my options. Just as I have done successfully every other time I’ve come here for a sandwich. I open the menu, and look, and look and look some more. I see all the specialty sandwiches, paninis, subs, salads, desserts, etc. I see the section for the Build Your Own Sandwich, which reads:

Served with: Chips or baked chips with a pickle.
Substitute fresh fruit for chips & pickle. 1.59
Pick your meat, name your bread, select your spreads and dress it up.
You also decide the size. whole/5.99 • half/4.99 • *slim/4.99
.60 extra: hot corned beef hot pastrami natural, grilled chicken breast
*slim = half-portion meat between two whole slices of bread

That’s it. Where’s the list of the meats and breads and trimmings and condiments you get to choose from? AWOL. They were always there before, but I don’t see them now. Am I missing something? They’ve even included the three meats that cost extra, but not the 12 that are offered as part of the regular sandwich price. What gives?

So, I walk up to the counter, menu in hand, and ask the guy, “Where’s the list of meats I can choose from? And breads? And trimmings and condiments?” And just so you know, they don’t have a big menu board mounted that provides all that info.

“They’re not in there?” he asks? Nope. “Let me take a look,” he says, and here’s the clincher: “These are brand-new menus we just got in.” He looks. And looks and looks some more. “Hunh. That’s strange.” Yeah, tell me about it.

So, get the big picture here. Here’s a national sandwich shop chain – 225 stores strong. Ranked #1 in annual sales in QSR Magazine’s Top Ten list of restaurant groups with under 300 locations. Just named “Best Restaurant in America” by Parents magazine.

And as an experienced commercial writer, I know how projects like these unfold and get produced, and know this menu revamp probably went through at least a ten sets of eyes (conservatively). Yet, somehow, some way, almost inconceivably, the menu got printed, minus, arguably, THE core, central menu information – one of their signature features.

And each location no doubt got a few hundred copies of the new menu, which means close to 50,000 printed in all. Truly amazing.

And until it’s replaced with a corrected one, it’s going to make the counter staff’s job a LOT more complicated. Not to mention far longer wait times at lunch time, as everyone who wants a custom sandwich is going to have to ask for all the choices, listen and try to remember all they heard, and THEN decide. As opposed to knowing exactly what they want by the time they get up to the counter (i.e., like it should work). A freakin’ nightmare. This is the proverbial Menu Designed by Committee.

Oh, and get this: the SAME meatless/breadless menu was loaded up on their web site, to boot! So, until they fix it (and I haven’t checked it since), when people call to order takeout, they’ll be putting the counter staff through the same ordeal! Or if they’re trying to order online, they’ll likely just say, the heck with it and go somewhere else.

Now, obviously, Jason’s has done a lot of things right or they wouldn’t be as successful as they are. And while this screw-up won’t really hurt them in the long run, it’s just one more example – and they’re all around us – of BIG companies who don’t have their act together. Now, don’t get the idea that all companies are full of morons – obviously not the case. And this screw-up doesn’t prove that Jason’s is a bush-league operation. Again, not so. But this stuff happens more than you might imagine.

So, as you build your freelance copywriting business, don’t canonize these corporate entities as all-knowing, all-intelligent, all-savvy, all-buttoned-up entities. Ain’t necessarily so…

So, how do you think stuff like this happens?

Can you share some similar stories of major screw-ups in a big company’s literature?

Or similar snafus that show the Big Boys aren’t so smart, and maybe human, just like the rest of us?

Have you made the mistake of thinking you don’t have what it takes to make a difference for a business, since, “they’re SO much smarter than me”?