Saturday, July 6, 2013

Codename ATTACKSUB: A modest proposal to Subway

In the U.S.-led Western culture, it seems that the illusion of choice (or just choice, as it is often indistinguishable) is paramount to a good customer experience - and perhaps to the content mindset of any citizen. The successful coffee shop chain Starbucks is a good example with all its, uh, choices pertaining to coffee, its main product. Another business based on (the illusion of) choice is Subway.

The ocean of choices

Subway franchise restaurants are located all over the world and they offer relatively healthy choices for lunch for an affordable prize. Their main product is "submarine sandwich", which is a 12-inch sandwich that looks like a - surprise! - submarine. This is where Subway gets its name from. There are plenty of different sandwiches to choose from - 26 in the United States menu - and even if you haven't dined there before, you are sure to find something you like. For example, if you are friend of Italian cuisine, there are multiple choices that you'd probably fancy.

But choosing the sandwich is the easiest part. Let's forget that you can also order a smaller, 6-inch version, and there are also other items on the menu. After this choice, you are totally expected to play your part in a peculiar play, where you are forced to make culinary decisions about items and ingredients that you don't even know. This is the part that I pay for restaurant professionals to do, but at Subway, you are the chef.

Now, people like choice. They do, and I don't blame them. Subway is more than happy to make you a sandwich without salami or black pepper - actually, they don't even put them in it unless you tell them to. You get to decide, unlike at some other places. But what if you are in for a quick lunch or a no-hassle meal with no drama, such as this play where you get to pretend you know the difference between all their breads, sauces and other items you haven't even heard of?

I like choice, but I also like the choice of not being forced to choose over trivial matters. At a restaurant or a sandwich shop I pay not to care. At Subway this is problematic, because offering this choice is a central part of their business idea, and per my experiences, the friendly Subway associates have surprising difficulties making a sandwich without explicit and direct instructions for every part of the sandwich-making process.

Should I try to politely say that I actually couldn't care less what the sandwich contains and what bread it has, as long as it is a 12-inch Meatball Marinara? I would probably have to repeat this many times, as the associate would keep asking again for all items, not believing me the first time. I could also take my money elsewhere, to a potentially inferior place, but one that also sells expertise in sandwich-making, which I don't have.


To resolve this apparent problem, I have a proposal to Subway: the immediate implementation of a secret protocol with codename ATTACKSUB.

Let's say you want to have a Meatball Marinara sandwich (it's the cheapest, that's why I'm using it as an example). In my proposal, there would be a secret protocol in effect and it could be activated by any customer issuing the codename. In this case, you just utter "Meatball Marinara ATTACKSUB", which automatically sets into a motion a strictly regulated and completely autonomous operation, which results in the production of a single 12-inch Meatball Marinara sandwich with all ingredients and items included as defined in Subway's Single Integrated Operations Plan (SIOP), with no questions asked. The customer will get the sub and pay for it and both the associate and the customer will save a lot of time (with the customer still paying the same price).

This still leaves out a very important aspect: toasting. Even if you would agree with everything else about the sandwich, it is still totally reasonable to desire a toasted sandwich, or to have it untoasted. It means that there must be an additional parameter to codename ATTACKSUB - the choice of WARHEAD:
  1. To specify the toasting option, you say "Meatball Marinara ATTACKSUB WITH NUKES".
  2. To specify the non-toast option, you say "Meatball Marinara ATTACKSUB WITHOUT NUKES", as a reference to many actual attack submarines having missiles with warheads of conventional explosives instead of nuclear ones.
Without issuing one of these optional parameters, the sandwich will be assembled and toasted or not toasted per the nominal parameters in the global Subway SIOP.


If you happen to be a stock dealer, a grad student or you just don't care enough to care, and ATTACKSUB is just too slow, you might want to consider the SILENTSERVICE option.

With this codeword, an even more secretive operation would start. Because of the covert nature of this operation, the codeword could be issued with a whisper or even on a piece of paper. A complete radio silence would be part of the protocol and all choices pertaining to the sandwich selection would be done independenty by the associate. Only the assembled sandwich, whatever its final configuration, would be exposed to the customer, who would purchase it for consumption.

Implementation and verification

Now, Subway, I'd like to try these out the next time I visit the local Subway in Champaign, IL. I don't want to look stupid while whispering secret codewords, so can you make sure the associates have been trained and SIOP is updated before then? If I receive no answer from you before 2013-07-08T00:00:00Z, I will assume these protocols have been fully implemented and I can reassume my patronage at any time hence. Thanks!

1 comment :

  1. making a code word makes the whole point of the code word more cumbersome than just asking for the things you want on it. Sounds like you should just go eat at mcdonalds or just make your own sandwiches at home :D

    there already exists a codeword "the works" or "everything on it" if you don't care what is on it :)