Cashing in on those restaurant gift cards given to us during the holidays is always a difficult chore for the Fiance and I. Most of the time the restaurants are a chain and the gift card never covers a 2 person dinner (no apps, no drinks, and bottom half of the menu). We’re still happy to have a night out without cooking, but after a familiar feeling of uneasiness and discomfort, the one we get from eating too much fast food, we had to ask ourselves, “are we just eating the dine-in version of fast food?”.

This led to questions about our expectations of quality. Everyone knows that fast food is not the best for your health. Just ask Michael Moore and his 2004 documentary Supersize Me. I’ll be honest, the movie made me want to go out for a burger, but the sluggish feelings afterward reminded me why I don’t eat fast food very often.

Real test of quality

In terms of expectations, food has the same series of formulas that remodelling a bathroom has. The rule of remodelling states that you get to pick one out of the three: Speed, Price, Quality (1st choice design). For food service, this is the same; albeit, quality for a remodel is really matched with the comfort quality of the restaurant.

Food Expectation Forumlas

slower speed + comfortable ambiance + higher cost = high quality (anniversary dinner quality)

slower speed + uncomfortable ambiance + lower cost = low quality (local restaurant or local fast food)

Faster speed + uncomfortable ambiance + higher cost = low quality (typical fast food)

Our experience was pretty quick: walk in, getting seated right away, ordering within minutes, food within minutes, handed bill while eating, paid and out the door. The whole experience was done and over in under 30 minutes with the bulk of that time spent eating!

Walking out, we felt an overwhelming feeling of unease. After sitting uncomfortably for a short time and paying $40 for a get-in-get-out meal, we didn’t think that the experience matched the expectation of a “nice sit down dinner”. Then, the fiance asked the big food experience question, “do you think we would have enjoyed the food more if it took longer to make?”. As in, “would we have thought the quality was higher if it took longer?”.

Speed as inference

We use speed as an indicator of quality all the time. “Fast acting solution” = “it must be a great product, if it’s that fast”. “Jim works slower than molasses” = “Jim is not good at his job”. “It takes years of training” = “That must be a difficult skill or degree”. The reality is far from the truth. Speed always has a cost or limitation.

Take Jimmy John’s for example. I love one of their sandwiches from time to time, but I never order delivery. Why? Because they have a strict 5 minutes or less policy (and I live further than that). Instead of making it a negative, they’ve cleverly flipped the rhetoric to make it a positive. Check out their commercial. If you pay close attention, the commercial states, “we only deliver within 5 minutes of our stores, so that your sandwich arrives freaky fresh”. It’s a sandwich. How does the quality of the sandwich become inedible after 5 min? It doesn’t, but controlling overhead gas prices and labor costs makes more sense.

They’ve also tried flipping the paradigm of “fast food”, by suggesting that because the sandwiches are served “freaky fast” that infers that the sandwiches are also “fresh” and therefore “of good quality”. Don’t get me wrong, I like them, but it’s just a sandwich and still fast-food.

Quality under fire

As we vie for getting our instant gratification button pressed with every service, we need to remember that quality is not the only sacrifice for speed.

Cost The candle that burns at both ends may burn the brightest, but it also burns the shortest. Everything has a cost. A fast car burns fuel faster. A high performance computer game requires more storage. There’s an increase to the margin of error for surgeries and other medical procedures. The fact is, speed is not cheap.

Choice Remember, Morpheus intentionally gives Neo the choice of the red or blue pill. There are always more choices, but not enough time to figure out what those are. Starbucks has learned this very well. The next time you go into one, look at their menu (or lack thereof). They can make all sorts of drinks, but instead of listing them off and having a customer hold up the line to make a decision, many of their branches have limited the menu dramatically. Besides speeding up the decision making process, this also acts to limit the choices to avoid complicated drinks. By the way, Neo could have tried taking both pills, or neither, or fight, or flee, or….

Satisfaction – “But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted…He lived happily ever after”. Unfortunately life is not that simple Mr. Wonka. Problems arise and need to be dealt with. There are also consequences to fulfilling many base satisfactions. For instance, smoking calms the nerves, relaxes the smoker, and can take the edge off a hard day, but you’ll have to live with the excessive pains it causes later in life (cancer, emphysema, psoriasis, all the issues with your teeth, etc).


My point with this post is to make you aware that “speed isn’t everything” and should not be used as a primary indicator. For the most part, it’s fairly meaningless to infer anything out of speed other than the amount of time taken, but if you can replicate the exact same quality of an action faster, then by all means, do it if that’s your prerogative to be faster. Just remember that there is a sacrifice for speed. Try not to be fooled by someone connecting fast speed = good quality. That’s seldom the case.

Thank you for reading. I know that these main post have really gotten out of whack with timing. I’m spending much of my free time learning HTML and CSS or trying to catch up on energy. I’m trying a new role this month that I hope will make me look hirable in the future.

Like always, I hope that you found something to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire. If you agreed or disagreed with something in this post, share it on twitter and tag me. I’d love to have a good argument or new thought. Otherwise, I’ll check you tomorrow for another Casual Friday post.