If you’re like me, you’re prepping meals at home more often than you used to. Your grocery lists are electronic or paper instead of in your head. You may even be meal-planning and on your way to becoming America’s next gourmet chef. But no matter the approach eventually you succumb to food out instead of food in. “Taking away” meals these days means navigating an app, a website, a drive-thru, a phone call, or for the really daring, an unscheduled appearance at the front doors. You never know which approach works until you try a couple. Sometimes you simply give up.
Case in point. Last Friday we took my wife’s truck for a service – scheduled just after sun-up. Leaving the house so early meant breakfast would be out instead of in. My first thought? McDonald’s. An Egg McMuffin is still a pretty good on-the-go breakfast, and navigating McDonald’s hasn’t changed (drive thru, pay at the window, drive away, enjoy). I also admit to a soft spot for the Golden Arches because I worked there in high school.
My wife had other ideas. Since a breakfast sandwich was the order of the day she wanted Einstein Brothers Bagels, and with good reason. Einstein’s offers a choice of five “classic” breakfast sandwiches and another seven “signature” specials: twelve different spins on bagels and eggs. While Egg McMuffins are assembled from just four mass-produced ingredients, Einstein’s creations are made-to-order adventures with options like chorizo, avocado, spinach, and mushrooms. If the choice is Einstein’s or McDonald’s it’s a no-brainer. Except now.
Not knowing Einstein’s take-away approach during COVID, I parked in front of the restaurant while my wife went inside to place the order. Nope. Einstein’s allows two options: DoorDash or order from the app. Well blast my bagels – DoorDash doesn’t even deliver to our neighborhood so it was either the app or go hungry. Fine. A quick download and I went in search of the “Order” button. Nope. Einstein’s wants an account first – phone number, email, birthday, credit card, and so on. Fine. At last we assembled our on-line order and I went in search of the “Pay” button. Nope. Einstein’s makes you bank a minimum balance first (and welcome to “Shmear Society Rewards”). Really? A cash reserve for a breakfast sandwich? Once and for all, nope. I X’d out of the app, deleted it from my phone, and left a skid mark or two as I accelerated away.
McDonald’s was also on the way home, a couple miles up the road. We didn’t have their app either but so what? Order at the drive-thru, pay at the window, drive away with an Egg McMuffin, enjoy. We even splurged on hash browns (and an order of breakfast sausage for the dog). A McDonald’s breakfast for two people and a pet costs far less than a similar order at Einstein’s. Was my Egg McMuffin forgettable? Yes. Did I consume my sandwich within minutes of leaving the restaurant? Yes (today’s Egg McMuffin is smaller than your palm). Did I wish I’d had a custom-made Einstein’s instead? Of course. But not if I must jump through a bunch of electronic hoops to get one.
I want to support restaurants through the COVID pandemic; I really do. Our favorite Mexican place has nothing electronic, so you just place a phone order and take-away fifteen minutes later. Our favorite coffeehouse is a converted bank, so it’s drive-thru, pay, and go, lickety-split. That’s all I’m asking for: simple process, no hoops.
Einstein’s theory of relativity assumes accelerated motion (say, a car pulling away from a restaurant with an order of food). Einstein’s Bagels requires decelerated motion (say, the unanticipated time to download, setup, and bank-load their app). Take your pick: Einstein’s approach or Einstein Brothers’ approach? For me, it’s Albert’s way every time.