Lunch during the week is usually more of an errand than an experience, a quick round trip to fetch something edible and cheap that will keep me alive long enough to do it again tomorrow, and thus is an obvious target for efficiency optimization, both from a logistics standpoint as well as in its value-for-dollar. The amiable, well-intentioned proprietors of the gyro shop 2 blocks to the west, however, have confused the process.gyro-photo

I ordered a gyro sandwich to go, and then proceeded to loiter around the tiny dining area while they put it together. Maybe to offer customers a little more for their $6.99, or maybe because it’s cloudy and unpleasant outside, they offered me (and any other waiting customers) a free bowl of soup, passed across the counter in a styro bowl. Spoons were on the opposite wall near the condiments, as indicated by a gesture. The soup was simple but good, some kind of lentil-curry-porridge that was satisfyingly flavorful and warm – too warm, really, as it was too hot to shovel down and needed a lot of blowing, slurping and mostly waiting for it to cool while juggling the flimsy bowl to avoid burning my hands.

Now a gyro takes about 5 minutes to make if you are an average human being. If you are an authentic Greek gyro-making ninja then it takes you about one minute and 15 seconds, which is about how long it takes one of us average human beings to eat two spoonfuls of blazingly-hot soup. And therein lies the dilemma: my gyro was ready, wrapped and bagged for travel back to my desk to eat while I’m working like a good office drone, its tasty aroma wafting from the bag as the chilled vegetables were already beginning to cool the warm slab of meat and the steamy falafel dough. I had paid $8 (after dropping a GW in the tip jar) for this sandwich and its delicate balance of hot and cold foods that is enjoyed properly only when fresh, and yet here I was wasting that culinary opportunity to finish a free bowl of soup. Not only that, but I was trying to rush the soup’s natural schedule by eating it before it had reached its own peak-enjoyment temperature, repeatedly burning the mouth for whom this experience was mostly intended.

I ended up clamping an upside-down bowl onto my soup and shuffling back to assigned seating area number 410 to finish my meal; rescued yet again by my MacGuyver-like ingenuity. But I ask you, gentlemen of the gyro shop – did you think this through sufficiently? While I appreciate the proactive marketing of free soup, the thoughtfulness it shows towards your customers to offer them something satisfying while they wait, and the added value of complementary side dishes on an already value-priced meal, the logistics just don’t work out. Let me offer you some suggestions, based on similar but more successful models:

  • The Chinese and Teriyaki places offer free soup (in real bowls) to customers dining in only. Take-out orders go without.
  • Starbucks offers tastes and samples to customers waiting in line but they are shot-glass-sized, ready to consume immediately, and are finished before the customer’s order is ready.
  • A good restaurant might offer a free appetizer or similar complement when a meal is slow to be prepared. But they usually do not employ Greek gyro ninjas for whom “slow preparation” means “still shorter than a superbowl halftime commercial.”

All in all, gyro shop, I respect your ambition but think you could use some outside consulting. I am willing to accept payment in baklava.