We went to CiCi’s Pizza today (a new franchise in town) and on this first (and probably last) trip, I have one observation: Restuarant employees are being made to do some pretty ridiculous things to earn their minimum wage.

The employees had to yell “Hello! Welcome to CiCi’s!” when anyone new walks in the door. They had to yell “Thank you for coming to Ci Ci’s!” when anyone walked out the door. They had to yell little songs about the pizzas that were coming out of the oven. They had to yell little chants about how great CiCi’s pizza is about every 15 minutes.

To be completely honest, it was really disturbing to have people yelling all the time right next to where you were standing in the buffet line and close to where you were sitting. I’m sure the restaurant means for these yells to be uplifting, fun, and cheerful… but come on … if you sit there for 30 minutes eating, you quickly realize that they are yelling hello and goodbye at everyone, chanting about how great the pizza is on cue, and yelling the “pizza chants” when their manager tells them to do so. You couldn’t possibly believe that this is all spontaneous fun.

If nothing else, the desired behavior for these poor employees did spark some lively conversation between Joel and I (which is something to be grateful for when you’ve been married as long as we have). Cold Stone Creamery is another food franchise that requires “spontaneous fun” of their employees, but in this case, it actually seems a bit more spontaneous (only slightly forced). Employees sing when a particular type of ice cream combination is ordered or when a large tip is given. Thus, “spontaneous fun” results from an unusual event (not just a customer entering the building).

Joel said he thought it was some kind of bizarre “organ-grinder” mentality. I didn’t really think a lot about that at the time of the conversation, but tonight (after reading the Wikipedia on Organ Grinders) I think that he might be right more than he suspected. Here are some of the traits of organ grinders:

  • Were often chased by persons who would not appreciate hearing the same tune over and over and over…
  • Organ grinders seemed to often be tone deaf and lacking rhythm.
  • Organ grinder = noisy presence.

Well, CiCi’s certainly won’t have people lingering at the buffet if they drive away their customers by singing the same songs over and over, offering the same comments welcoming cusomers and bidding customers a noisy goodbye. So in a sense, this could be a good business model (do you think it was intended?) – the buffet customer eats and leaves the restaurant pretty quickly. Of course, they might also not have much repeat business… but maybe families with kids would be less sensitive to the noise.

To me, it just seems degrading for the employees. They are likely working for minimum wage already in a food preparation line. Do you really have to force them to sing/yell for their money too? Are they the organ grinder… or the monkies?

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