Optimizing the Chili’s dining experience


Back in the days of Windows 95, one of my colleagues paid a visit to his counterparts over in the Windows NT team as part of a continuing informal engagement to keep the Windows NT developers aware of the crazy stuff we’ve been doing on the Windows 95 side.

One particular time, his visit occurred in late morning, and it ran longer than usual, so the Windows NT folks said, “Hey, it’s lunchtime. Do you want to join us for lunch? It’s sort of our tradition to go to Chili‘s for lunch on Thursdays.”

My colleague cheerfully accepted their offer.

The group were shown to their table, and the Windows NT folks didn’t even look at the menus. After all, they’ve been here every week for who-knows-how-long, so they know the menu inside-out.

When the server came to take the orders, they naturally let my colleague order first, seeing as he was their special guest.

“I’ll have a chicken ranch sandwich.”

The folks from the Windows NT team then placed their orders.

“I’ll have the turkey sandwich.”

“Turkey sandwich.”

“A turkey sandwich for me, please.”

Every single person ordered a turkey sandwich.

After the server left, my colleague asked, “Why do you all order the turkey sandwich?”

They explained, “We’ve been coming here for a long time, and we eventually figured out that, at least at this restaurant, the turkey sandwich takes the least time to prepare.”

What my colleague forgot to ask was, “Well, since I already ordered something else, I naturally screwed up your highly-optimized algorithm. So why didn’t you order something else?”

Note: I actually don’t know who ordered first. I just made up that part of the story to make it funnier. (Note that I make up parts of other stories, too. I’m not a historian. I’m a storyteller.)

Comments (26)
  1. jk says:

    more importantly is 'time to prepare' the right metric to optimize. personally I like optimizing 'taste' ;)

  2. Sockatume says:

    The enlightened algorithm would be to phone in your order ahead of time, surely? Then the preparation time is a nonissue.

  3. FA85 says:

    @ Sockatume: That's likely to be premature optimization. The menu might be cold when you're there. Not a choice … ;-)

  4. Mark (The Other Mark) says:

    Taste / Price, while maintaining acceptable levels of healthy. Or such would be my preference.

  5. @jk says:

    If you are optimizing for taste, you wouldn't be eating sandwiches in the first place.

  6. D-Coder says:

    @Sockatume: Remember, this was in pre-telephone days.

  7. David Walker says:

    IMO, "optimizing a dining experience" does not mean "get your food the fastest".  For me, the optimal dining experience is the food that tastes best (and, I suppose, isn't TOO unhealthy).  :-)

    But I understand if these particular programmers were more interested in speed than in quality and taste!

  8. Leo says:

    @D-Coder: Didn't Microsoft used to have a pneumatic tube network on its campus back then? They should have connected it to the sandwich shop and sent a cylinder ahead with the order.

  9. Ed 208 says:

    @Leo, if they had pneumatic tubes, I see subs as being more popular than sandwiches, and you don't have to leave your desk

  10. Joshua says:

    [Note that I make up parts of other stories, too. I'm not a historian. I'm a storyteller.]

    There is a kind of storyteller in Africa who would be horrified at this, but I digress.

  11. kog999 says:

    Note that I make up parts of other stories, too. I'm not a historian. I'm a storyteller

    Im shocked, shocked i tell you!

  12. Henk says:

    [Note that I make up parts of other stories, too. I'm not a historian. I'm a storyteller.]

    So then what was REALLY the reason why you had to click Start to shutdown a computer?

  13. Evan says:

    @D-coder: "Remember, this was in pre-telephone days."

    Oh man, and I'm not even 30 yet. I'd have guessed it'd be a few more years before I heard that.

  14. Why ask anyone what they want to eat? Simplify and remove the choice. Just shove a Metro sandwich down their throat.

  15. mmm says:

    Ordering mostly turkey sandwiches still saves time if they are prepared in series.

  16. foo says:

    @mmm. In parallel would achieve better bandwidth…

  17. JDP says:

     In parallel would achieve better bandwidth…

    "hello, this is Microsoft — we're coming over for lunch. We need a redundant array of independent sandwiches. Thanks."

  18. lefty says:

    Soon there will be quantum lunches where you'll be able to eat the entire menu at once.

    Otherwise known as Chang's Mongolian Grill.

  19. Cheong says:

    "hello, this is Microsoft — we're coming over for lunch. We need a Redundant Array of Independent Dishes of Sandwiches. Thanks."

    FTFY. IMO, the pharse should be able to simplified to RAIDS to be geek enough. :P

  20. GregM says:

    "IMO, the pharse should be able to simplified to RAIDS to be geek enough."

    Redundant Array of Independent Dagwoods?

  21. Jerome says:

    Why ask anyone what they want to eat? Simplify and remove the choice. Just shove a Metro sandwich down their throat.

    C'mon, why no comments on this. That IS FUNNY, you must admit, right?

  22. Cheong says:

    [Redundant Array of Independent Dagwoods?]

    Server: "Please don't consume food bought from other restaurants. Thank you."

  23. > Why ask anyone what they want to eat? Simplify and remove the choice. Just shove a Metro sandwich down their throat.

    C'mon, why no comments on this. That IS FUNNY, you must admit, right?

    We're all too shocked that there wasn't a comment on auto sorting the menu

  24. foo says:

    "C'mon, why no comments on this…"

    Because we're all still choking on our metro sandwiches? (are u satisfied?)

  25. sirin says:

    Because we switched to androids.

    Androids do not need to eat and you need no sandwitches anymore

  26. Gabe says:

    That Chili's in Bellevue was actually the first Chili's I ever saw. Apparently it has since closed (according to the Yelp link). I can't really say I'm sad to see it go, however, as I'd call it a "dining experience" only in the ironic sense.

Comments are closed.