Drink Station Traffic Jam

A restaurant drink station is convenient.  You can make your drink anyway you want it -- just the right amount of ice, your favorite beverage, or even a mix of two drinks!  Alongside the soda machine(s), guests expect to find accessories for their drink (and sometimes their meal).

This clever design uses a toolbox to offer guests their straws, lids, sweeteners, and condiments.  It keeps the items organized and hidden from sight.  What could be wrong with that?

A drink station is a common place for "traffic jams".  Every guest has a cup, but there are often only one or two soda machines offered.  This creates lines for guests needing liquid refreshment.  In addition, other guests are contending for a mere lid, napkin, or some ketchup.

Because the toolbox can only have one drawer accessible at a time, only one guest can be served.  Imagine there are 4 guests in line -- one needs ketchup, another needs sugar, another a straw, and the last needs a lid for their drink.  The guests must proceed one-by-one.  If, however, the drink station had provided the items in individual containers, spread out in proximity, each guest could retrieve their item simultaneously.

This visually hidden approach is also an issue for children who cannot yet read, as well as for the visually-impaired.  These patrons can't read the words easily (if at all), but could recognize their desired item by appearance.

McDonald's does a better job, making all the items visible and somewhat spread out (there is an identical setup to the right of the soda machine as well).  However, the area is too congested for guests to use simultaneously.

Solution 1)  Rather than stacking the accessories from front to back (deep), the accessories could be spread from left to right to allow counter access for more patrons.  This would obviously require a larger counter than the one pictured above.

Solution 2)  It is expected that lids and straws would be next to the soda machine, but the other items could be placed in a completely different area.  The guest who needs ketchup, sweetener, or napkins could avoid the drink station altogether.  

Solution 3)  While it is cost-prohibitive to have more than two soda machines, there could be multiple stations to get napkins, condiments, and other accessories throughout the restaurant.

Solution 4)  Place common condiments and napkins on each table.

Aesthetics and novelty have to be weighed against convenience and function.