LINCOLN, NE—Frustrated by the logistics of developing a viable mealtime strategy, employees of the Ryodan Consulting Group threw money at the lunch problem Monday, according to branch manager Ryan Leverenz.
"Even though a seriously reasoned approach could have yielded huge dividends in both efficiency and deliciousness, everyone settled on a quick fix to the need for a midday meal," Leverenz said. "If the team had really put their heads together, I have no doubt that they could have developed an approach that more effectively addressed each individual's specific needs. Is it really commercially viable to order delivery of 20 subs with cheese for 19 staffers, three of whom are lactose-intolerant?"
"And, if you do order subs, why not utilize Deli Italia? Cost-wise, their food averages out at 80 percent of Papa Luigi's," Leverenz added. "These are the questions that should've been asked well before anyone picked up the phone."
The group undertook the lunch-ordering project shortly before noon, when several of the mid-level employees working on the BankOne account got hungry. Team members brainstormed delivery and take-out options, such as Chinese, pizza, Indian, and bagels, and then turned the broad options over to the group.
According to market analyst Don Roswell, this was a mistake.
"The strategy session lost focus because everyone started yelling out restaurant names before we had even agreed on what kind of food we wanted," Roswell said. "This was followed by a hasty delegation of the task to intern Trish Scranton."
Roswell said client-relations team leader Austin Buford undertook the decision.
"How about subs?" Buford said. "Let's just have Trish get us subs. Here's 10 bucks. Get me an Italian or whatever."
Group members quickly acquiesced, throwing money in a pile at the center of the table.
According to Leverenz, the unilateral decision and rushed delegation resulted in the less-than-satisfying lunch that arrived 50 minutes later.
"We had to spend so much time divvying everything up and making change that the subs were soggy and gross when we finally got to eat them," Leverenz said. "I'm positive we can do better."
Ryodan's upper management derided the office for what one upper-level employee characterized as "a laissez faire lunch attitude."
"Our clients know Ryodan for our reputation for prudence and for our systematic approach to problem-solving," said Ryodan vice-president for public affairs Maggie Orville. "From what I hear of their careless lunch-selection process, I can only determine that the team in Lincoln is dangerously out of step with Ryodan's corporate culture."
Copywriter Allison Weinberg said that the lunch problem was more complex than upper management realized.
"Analyzing deliciousness and cost is taxing enough," Weinberg said. "When you add in convenience and the need for variety, it becomes overwhelming. It would take a massive amount of time to find a lasting lunch solution—and time is something we don't have. Right now, hard as this is for the top brass to grasp, our best option is an unsystematic process of trial and error."
Added Weinberg: "Like, I've been really into wraps lately. But I'd much rather throw a couple bucks in and eat whatever than convince 20 people to get wraps."
Ryodan accountant Karla Moss, who was brought in to consult on the fiscal side of the problem, said the department's problem is typical.
"Corporate dining is spectacularly inefficient, and sharks feed on inefficiency," Moss said. "The kicker is that many meal purchasers don't even mind getting fleeced. Personal lunch expenditures at Ryodan could be as low as $4 per eater per day, but workers pay up to seven times that for their midday goods and services."
Moss estimated that the Monday sandwich order, which also included chips and a two-liter bottle of Coke, was overvalued by nearly $41.
Based on this evaluation, Moss drafted a policy paper and posted it in the break room. The "Let's Take Turns Preparing Lunch" plan resolves that if each worker made lunch for the department approximately once per month, the meals would be better and significantly cheaper.
Ryodan attorney Ted Batterson said the lunch system is long overdue for a radical overhaul, but that the in-house lunch solution "only works in theory."
"Experience has shown that these sort of communal meal plans never pan out," said Batterson, who has been with Ryodan for more than 20 years. "We need a solution rooted in the American entrepreneurial spirit and built on competition. If the fresh market is not involved, people have no incentive to participate."
With no clear solution in sight, even the employee who proposed sub sandwiches characterized the measure as a "stop-gap effort at best."
"There are serious issues on the table, and they merit examination, discussion, and consensus-based decision-making," Buford said. "The daily lunch order should be as much about teamwork as it is about satisfying the need to consume food periodically. Sure, we solved the lunch problem for today, but what about tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that?"