Monday, October 7, 2013

Slowing collapse of fast food

I am not a complete fan of Tainter's "Complexity is Death" meme, but he is extremely popular in the doom and gloom crowd, so I felt that clear signs of his thesis should be reported on.

Fast-food drive-thrus are getting slower
Bruce Horovitz, USA Today, 30 September 2013 (hat tip: MR)
Never mind that its first name is "fast." The amount of time that consumers are spending waiting in lines at fast-food drive-thru windows is getting longer, not shorter, mostly due to the growing complexity of new products that the major fast-food chains are selling.
In this case it is competitive pressure that is making the menu more complex.  I don't think that is one of the drivers that Tainter includes within his causes of society becoming too complex for sustainability, but complexity is complexity.
Since one of my complaints with Tainter is that he offers no measurable benchmarks, its all faux-precision as far as I can tell - maybe we finally have something to measure.


PioneerPreppy said...

I don't remember his touching on competition as causing complexity at all really. Without looking in depth at this scenario I am not sure I would say it is healthy competition either as it may in fact still have a basis in government regulations that the fast food joints have to resort to such ways of doing it. There may be a simpler/easier way otherwise.

I don't know I guess you would have to be more specific in your theory for me to present a counter argument :)

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: I don't think he does. He only addresses as a way to keep up high levels of energy inputs.

He addresses the issue as if it was an engineering one, and particularly gives a hard time to theories that take other routes.

James M Dakin said...

Competition wasn't a factor in the societies he portrayed. As far as slow turn around time, is the growth of customer count factored in? More and more fat humps can't make it out of the car to waddle inside, so the lane always stays busy. I find it easier to go inside since the line is outside, mostly. Also, some owners are installing centralized responders to the drive through. It was suppossed to increase efficiency, ny guess is it just saves money and slows things down.

russell1200 said...

James: From what I can tell, the decrease in customer count is the issue. Likely, gross revenue goes up, or is at least maintained in a competitive environment.

The lack of a competitive input is a major flaw of a lot of the cyclical collapse theories. Tainter is not alone there. But he treats people with competing theories in a rather nasty fashion, so he doesn't deserve a gentle touch.

The centralized processing is certainly a money saving issue.