Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Don't Wait In Line At Shake Shack!

A Shake Shack recently opened in Chestnut Hill and another location may open in Harvard Square. The local media went crazed, saturating their readers with abundant coverage of the new Shake Shack. People on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites could not stop talking about this burger joint. Some people waited an hour or more to get a burger and shake. Though some of the talk has died down, it remains hugely popular and you will likely have to wait in line to place your order.

However, I have important advice for you. Don't wait in line at Shake Shack!

Do I have something against Shake Shack? No. In fact, I have not even eaten there yet, though I plan on visiting in the near future. My advice actually should be more general, that you shouldn't wait in line at any fast food restaurant. Why? Because the waiting will only decrease your enjoyment of whatever food you eventually order. If you want the optimal taste of fast food, you shouldn't wait in line for it.

Before explaining this advice, let me note that eating fast food, especially frequently, can be unhealthy for us, and far too many people choose fast food over much healthier selections. Why do they do this when they clearly understand the potential negative health consequences? In the Scientific American Mind (March/April 2013), there is an informative article, Time-Warping Temptations, by journalist David H. Freedman which provides some rationale behind these choices.

The psychological culprit appears to be temporal discounting, defined as "..our tendency to view small rewards available now as more desirable than even much bigger payoffs down the road." Temporal discounting is responsible for such problems as "...overeating, overspending, abusing drugs, and more." It is believed that it might be an evolutionary trait from when man was surrounded by constant threats to his life so that it was beneficial to take the immediate reward as one never knew what the future might bring.

Temporal discounting is responsible for people's desire for instant gratification, for our tendency to seek whatever will fulfill our immediate need, even if it might not be good for ourselves in the future. The hustle and bustle of fast food restaurants can also accentuate our desire for an immediate reward. There are ways though to fight this psychological instinct, ways for us to look more toward the future and stop giving in to our base desire for instant gratification.

One of the most important ways to do this is to find a way to delay the immediate reward, and counteract the temporal discounting. Rather than dining at a fast food restaurant, spend a little time shopping first, even if you just window shop. You might find then that your desire for fast food has abated, and you might be willing to seek a healthier choice. This should work in other circumstances as well, such as trying to stop smoking cigarettes.

Why does this type of delay often succeed? Well, now we get back to my original point of why you shouldn't wait in line at a fast food restaurant. "Research has shown that requiring people to wait just five minutes for a treat cuts the appeal of the treat in half." So, if you wait in line at a restaurant, then you are less likely to enjoy the food you eventually eat. The delay you face in a long line at a fast food restaurant will cause your experience to be diminished. You probably don't realize it is occurring but it exists.

If you want to have the best experience at Shake Shack, or any similar place, then go when you don't have to wait in line, and not when your experience would be lessened. And better yet, don't eat as much at fast food restaurants, choosing more healthy options.


Mazarkis Williams said...

So funny I am reading this article clutching a bag of Cracker Jacks.

Richard Auffrey said...

I haven't had Cracker Jacks in a long time. Always liked them though. :)