16 September 2009

Steal this Pitch: Deli Slicer Edition

Every deli I've been to seems to be equipped with a slicer and a scale. Why hasn't anyone combined these two things yet? Instead of having the deli attendant slice some meat or cheese until they think it's about the weight you asked for, and then remove it for weighing, and then putting it back on the slicer to top it off (repeating as necessary), why not just build a scale onto the little platform where the slices drop down onto?

I am interested in any and all technologies which will (a) reduce the amount of time I must spend shopping, and (b) reduce the amount of time and effort between me and a sandwich.

(Does such a thing exist already? A quick Google search suggests not, but I don't know where to look for definitive information on modern deli supplies and equipment.)


  1. It is inane that this doesn't exist already. The same exact principle is at work in several small business model postage meters (the scale precedes the meter).

    This can be done and it should be.

  2. I'll take a shot.

    A scale attached to a slicer is another scale that needs to be inspected and licensed by the local bureau of weight and measures. I have no first hand experience in how the process works, but I assume it costs the business owner a fair amount of money to keep his scales "legal for trade". Thus a business owner tries to minimize the number of scales on their premises.

    But why wouldn't deli owners just use a slicer-scale for all their weighing needs, given supposed efficiencies of the device? Consider, the customer who ordered half a pound of potato salad will have to wait a minute or two until the employee slicing a pound of salami for some other customer is done slicing. A slicer who pops back and forth to an establishment's single non-slicer-scale doesn't prevent any other employee from using that scale for more than a few seconds.

    Given the current regulatory environment, a slicer/scale combo would end up inconveniencing buyers of potato salad far more than it would benefit buyers of salami. The hypothetical device is therefore not a Pareto improvement in this single weighing device, two deli product economic model.

  3. Invent it and make millions :)

  4. Good thinking, 72kmh. I had not considered the regulation of scales.

    What if the scale on the slicer was to serve only as a guide for the attendant, who would then use a stand-alone scale to verify the weight and print the label? I'm guessing here, but I'd think in many/most jurisdictions both scales would not need to be certified. (But when do my logical predictions and actual regulation ever overlap?)

    That system would also free the potato salad customer from waiting for a scale. In fact, since each cold-cut customer will only need to use the existing scales once rather than several times, it may decrease the total service time for non-cold-cut customers as well.

    Now this solution requires more expensive slicers, so perhaps the capital costs aren't worth it in terms of efficiency, but we also need to consider the probably not insignificant waste that occurs when an attendant slices more than the customer requested. In my experience that extra is usually thrown away. I'm guessing here, but I'd bet a supplemental "guide scale" attached to the slicer would be fairly cheap to add since it wouldn't need a high degree of accuracy.