Thirty years later, and it had not changed. As I looked down the long corridor of the enclosed shopping mall in Colorado, there it was; just like I remembered it. Predominately orange and white store signage complemented by a blue and white picture of an upside-down ice cream cup.
Three decades earlier, a leasing agent came into my office with the news that Dairy Queen had acquired Orange Julius and had launched a new store concept for our food courts that combined Dairy Queen and Orange Julius. They called it a “treat center.” Since then, so much has changed in the retail mall business, but not evidently the DQ Orange Julius store we visited in Colorado.
The big soft serve ice cream machine stood in its stainless-steel majesty behind the counter. Next to it, was the pot of rich brown chocolate liquid waiting to surround and envelop a cone of vanilla soft serve and miraculously create a hardened chocolate cover over the cold, white ice cream. I was anxious in anticipation.
In a fit of nostalgia, I insisted on buying soft serve cones for all of my colleagues that day. Two of us ordered a soft serve cone and the others ordered chocolate dipped cones. There were two women working behind the counter. The woman behind the cash register was clearly the more experienced one, possibly the “supervisor,” although she looked just old enough to be my granddaughter. I remember when I was that young.
She took our order and passed the information to her associate, also very young but not so experienced. I guess the second woman may have been experiencing her first day of work and was likely a “trainee.”
The first order was for a regular soft serve cone. The trainee placed the cone under the soft serve machine and pulled the lever to insert the ice cream. Unfortunately, the ice cream was not sufficiently centered in the cone, resulting in a configuration that looked more like the leaning tower of Pisa but probably more likely to fall over than the famous Italian building.
The more experienced woman discarded the defective ice cream cone, and the trainee tried again but without success to produce a cone with a well-positioned and straight cone of ice cream. There must be a technique for keeping a tower of ice cream centered in a cone; it is a skill I had never recognized or appreciated.
So, the Supervisor took over the task of inserting the ice cream into the cone and relegated the trainee to dipping the ice cream cone into the vat of chocolate. I recalled the old adage, “if you want something done correctly, do it yourself.” The Supervisor centered each cone with the expertise that clearly came from practice and experience. But I was watching with interest the travails of a new employee learning on the job.
As unemployment drops to record low levels in the U.S., more companies will need to hire inexperienced workers and train them on the job. Maybe, this small food court tenant was an example of what to expect.
The trainee, given a new responsibility and determined to succeed, stood before the vat of chocolate and hesitated briefly while she planned her approach. Determination showed on her face. She then pushed the ice cream laden cone into the chocolate with force, carefully turned the cone to assure uniform chocolate covering as she had been told, and then extracted the cone with great anticipation of success. Suddenly, she appeared perplexed; where was the ice cream in the cone?
She peered into the dark chocolate vat wondering what happened to the white ice cream. She was unsure how to proceed because what happened was not supposed to happen.At that point, I moved away. I did not want to laugh at a new employee’s challenges, but I could not contain my chuckle of someone losing her ice cream.
I realize everyone has his or her challenges, even someone serving ice cream. And it’s important to remember that everyone has a bad day now and then. I am just thankful that I received my perfectly centered soft serve cone, and it tasted just like I remembered. I had a good day.
Scott MacDonald has been CEO, President, or Managing Director of several companies. His book, Saving Investa; How an ex-factory worker helped save one of Australia’s iconic companies, has won numerous awards.