Take Time For Meal Time

Too often we are in such a hurry to get one task finished so we can move to the next task that we forget that a company is not monolithic—it is made up of individuals. Communication with people over a meal or a coffee can perhaps provide cement that binds a group more tightly together. Making parts is something we need to do to survive. Making time for each other may be a means to help us thrive.

Chris Felix, Production Machining’s associate editor, and I recently returned from France where we attended the Simodec trade show. It was Chris’ first trip overseas, and I enjoyed watching him deal with the foreignness of a foreign country.

International travel is often an exercise in improvisation as we learned at Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. Our flight from Cincinnati was late to Paris, which caused us to miss our connection to Geneva, Switzerland. We then stood in a line for 45 minutes to get booked on the next flight to Geneva, and of course, we were assured our checked bags would make it with us.

Hoping to be pleasantly surprised at baggage claim in Geneva, we were needless to say disappointed when the belt finally stopped and we stood there alone, like losers in a musical chairs game, with no bags to pick up.

Off to the baggage claim office and a new line that turned out to be the wrong line. The Swiss Air employees politely directed us across the baggage claim room to Air France. We filled out the paperwork and were assured our bags would be delivered that evening. Two days later, we received our wandering luggage at our hotel.

As we finally passed through immigration and into the reception lobby of the Geneva airport, I welcomed Chris to Europe. With a wink and a nod to myself, I assured Chris that this kind of stuff rarely happens.

Vicariously, through watching Chris, I took some time to reflect on some of the differences between Europe and the United States. After traveling to Europe many times, it was fun to re-experience the continent through Chris’ fresh eyes.

Dining in France, and most other European countries, stands out in contrast to most meal times in America. For the entire time we were overseas, not once did we use a plastic spoon, glass or plate. Even at the show hall, lunch was served on china and we ate with silverware. Coffee is taken in cups with saucers. Linen napkins and tablecloths are used in all eating areas. There is nothing fast about this food, and that’s the point.

Europeans approach meals with a style and pace that seems, well, foreign to us. With multiple courses easily stretching out 2 hours or more, one wonders how restaurants make money with such limited table turnover.

Upon reflection, it occurred to me that we fast-paced Americans might take a lesson from the amount of time Europeans lavish on meals. These folks are no less energetic, creative or driven than we are. They simply choose to use the time for eating as a social adjunct to nourishment. A lot of business gets done around a lunch or dinner table in Europe, and these principles could easily be applied to aid in the success of our industry.

Precision machined parts manufacturers are good at making things. Taking a raw material and adding value to it creates wealth, and it’s wealth creation that drives our economy. Sometimes, however, we in America tend to forget that in addition to the skills that are necessary to make things, the colleagues who we all depend on also need an occasional human touch.

I’m not suggesting that we adapt vacation and holiday schedules that the continent enjoys—most are trying to get away from that. Rather, I think occasionally getting together with co-workers of all stripes and having a nice, leisurely lunch or dinner would be a positive thing.

Too often we are in such a hurry to get one task finished so we can move to the next task that we forget that a company is not monolithic—it is made up of individuals. Communication with people over a meal or a coffee can perhaps provide cement that binds a group more tightly together. Making parts is something we need to do to survive. Making time for each other may be a means to help us thrive.