“Chicken or Beef”: Is That the Best You Can Do?!?

I swear, if somebody says the phrase “chicken or beef” to me one more time, I’m going to punch them in the nose.

If I’m a homeless man, maybe I can’t have such an attitude.  But I’m not.  I’m a customer, and I paid good money for my 12-hour flight from Tokyo to Washington.

And hell, I’ve worked at a homeless shelter before, and I can say that even there, food is served with a certain element of decency.

Ah, that dreaded question…”chicken or beef?”

Can you imagine walking into a restaurant, and before the waiter even introduced himself, he spewed a surly “chicken or beef” question at you?

Can you imagine walking into even a McDonalds, and having the teenager behind the counter say “hamburger or salad?” instead of the customary “welcome to McDonalds, how may I help you today?”

Do you think there’s a chef from any culinary academy in the world that offers a dish that he simply calls “chicken”, or “beef”?

Of course not!

I understand that flight attendants have a repetitive, often thankless job, and that they deal with all sorts of crazy passengers. But when I see tinfoil trays of “chicken” or “beef” hurled at people, it makes me wonder why these individuals bother doing a job they have no appreciation for and take no pride in? There’s plenty of worse jobs out there, after all, than international cabin crew.

More often than not, I can’t answer the question anyway! Is it chicken curry? Chicken and rice? Fried chicken? Beef tartare? Roast beef au jus?

What if I happen to love chicken, but I can’t stand curry? I respond with “chicken,” and I receive a plate of chicken curry that I cannot eat.

Sadly enough, this “chicken or beef” question usually doesn’t even require someone to be awake to be asked. Falling asleep in uncomfortable seats is not always the easiest thing to do, and if I manage to find that comfort zone, the last thing I want is to have a flight attendant scream “chicken or beef” in my face to break me out of my slumber.

This is one of those small things that I can’t understand how airlines do not get exactly right, every time.  With so many things outside of an airline’s control—weather delays, ground delays, mechanical malfunctions—you’d think that it could place a great emphasis on the things it can always control.

Some airlines manage to get this right. The flight attendant will come down the aisle, gently communicate non-verbally to those passengers who appear to be sleeping (and the exceptional attendants will come back to them), and first ask “do you care for a meal today?” For those who are eating, he or she will present the menu options as they are envisioned by the chef: “Chicken parmesan with asparagus, or roast beef with mashed potatoes?”

It doesn’t take much.  I just don’t want to hear “chicken or beef” any more.

Chicken...I think?

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3 Comments to "“Chicken or Beef”: Is That the Best You Can Do?!?"

  1. jlee says:

    Well, can you imagine yourself saying “pan-fried chicken with steamed rice or braised beef with cous cous” for at least 60 times if the flight is full? Unlike in Maccas, you have variety of meal selections, you cannot predict what the customer wants. Whereas in Economy class, you only have 2 choices, saying chicken or beef is simply straightforward. Due to time constrain, you have less than 30 seconds per pax to finish the entire meal distribution and collection process. Each crew will figure out ways to make the time as short as possible. Most travellers would be accustomed to this phrase, mentioning of cooking method and type of staple are not important unless being asked. You might even be trapped in the situation of being asked, what do you mean by cous cous? You want to keep the time as short as possible. When you are seated down, 2 seconds of reply seems a long time, and while waiting for 3 more seconds for the pax to reply, that’s 5 seconds in total. 5 secs x 60 pax = 300 secs, one could have finished serving 10 pax. Plus you are not the only crew along the aisle, you might have 3 more, once you begin to see the difference in the number of rows being served, you want to catch up so that your partner will not be doing your share of work, and then telling your senior, “she’s so slow.”

    It’s hard for passengers to understand this concept, but there’s always the insider woes about every job. I doubt the phrase “chicken or beef” will have significant changes in the real world, go to business/first class if it really matters to you.

  2. John says:

    Rather some regurgitated chicken, I think.

  3. imdb says:

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Customer Engagement Strategy for the Airline Industry