Efficiency In The Drive Through

from the speed-it-up dept

It's somewhat amazing just how much effort goes into innovating the fast food industry. In the past, we've seen stories of outsourced order takers (call center so they can handle multiple restaurants at once), a system called "Hyperactive Bob" to better predict demand, and even an automated burger flipper. That last link also discussed order kiosks where fast food customers punched in the order themselves, rather than have the cashier do it. It seems that they're now taking that same concept out to the drive through also. In an effort to speed up the drive through line and making it more accurate, many fast food restaurants are trying to simplify the drive through order menu and show visual confirmations to make sure there are no mistakes. Of course, the article also mentions that realistically, the best way to speed up the whole process is to simply cut items off the menu. Perhaps the folks at In-N-Out might want to reconsider any plans to expand their menu beyond the four "official" items currently listed.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    dorpus, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 1:02am

    California Masochism

    During my stint in Silicon Valley, I noticed Californians torture themselves with terrible food to "fit in". They order their $5 cups of orange vomit at Jamba Juice, $6 piles of sandwich mush at Togo's, and the low-end burgers at In-n-Out. If you ask the trendies, they will insist it's "good".



     

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  2.  
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    DV Henkel-Wallace, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 5:23am

    food industry worth "innovating" in

    Look at the economics: it's an industry with over 1.25 trillion in the US GDP alone. It's highly labour-intensive, low margin and despite (or because of?) having a captive market (everybody has to eat) demand is largely inelastic.

    Unfortunately most innovation in this area over the last 60 years hasn't lead to better-tasting food, but there is an incentive for this to happen.

    The tech industry is small potatoes!

     

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  3.  
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    JR, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 6:08am

    Re: California Masochism

    Don't forget Carl's Jr.

     

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  4.  
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    Chris H, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 6:12am

    No Subject Given

    I don't eat fast food very often, but it would be nice to just punch your order in on a touchpad, like the WaWa's have here for hoagies and sandwiches.

    Of course, that doesn't eliminate the possibilty of them handing you the wrong order, not realizing it until you sit down to eat, and find all sorts of nasty condiments on it, you didn't order.

     

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  5.  
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    Dosquatch, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 6:14am

    Re: California Masochism

    Don't forget Carl's Jr.

    That's "Hardee's" to us in the East.

     

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  6.  
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    Andrew Pollack, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 6:38am

    The fast food process in Phoenix is amazing

    I grew up in Phoenix and avoid going back when possible. Still,with family still there the occasional visit is still required. I've found when ordering fast food in Phoenix the process is not quite the same as what I'm used to.

    1. Drive up, wait for ancient Chevy Nova in front of you to order for each of the 23 passengers while you enjoy the bass thrum from subwoofers so low it can make you sterile.

    2. Listen to the garbled sounds which come out of the speaker. This is actually an audio queue, to which you must now respond.

    3. Yell something back at the speaker. It doesn't really matter what you yell back. You're giving the person on the other end their own audio queue that you'd like food.

    3. Drive up, and hand the person at the windows some money. It doesn't really matter how much. Do not speak to them. They will not be able to speak back to you unless you speak an obscure combination of slavic-spanish which is taught only to fast food workers.

    4. Hold out your hand. Some amount of change will be given back. This has no real relationship to the cost of your meal or how much you handed the person in the first place, other than that it is usually less than they amount you gave them. Consider it like trading in beads.

    5. Drive to the next window and accept whatever number of bags, cups, and other containers they hand you. Smile, but don't speak. This time instead of slavic-spanish you're going to need tagalog-swahili.

    6. Open the bags, and enjoy your pot-luck lunch. Be warned, if the lunch contains a sandwich of burger of some kind, that it will be stacked like the leaning tower of Pizza (yes, Pizza, not Piza)in such a way as to prevent any possible handhold without requiring a napkin. This is the reason there are more than 200 napkins in your bag, but no straw (unless you didn't order a drink, in which case extra straws are provided).

    :-)

     

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  7.  
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    MissingFrame, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 6:58am

    Some day we will forget how to cook ...

    and as a society will starve to death when the power goes out.

     

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  8.  
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    Topher3105, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 7:34am

    Won't work in Florida

    Don't give fast food order control to a state of people that can't vote by punching holes in cards. A touch screen is just too damn advanced for Floridians. I guess, however, if a fast food restaurant gets the order wrong they can also claim it was too close to call.

     

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  9.  
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    Micky, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 7:59am

    Re: The fast food process in Phoenix is amazing

    Andrew!
    You've been to EVERY McDonald's in Philadelphia!

     

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  10.  
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    Tom W, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 8:02am

    Re: California Masochism

    Dorpus, you're clueless. I've lived here in SoCal all my life, so I know a few thing about a few things. "Low-end" burgers? Are you kidding? Perhap relative to a $12 burger at the Ritz Carlton, but in the fast-food market in which they compete, there is nothing close. Carls? sucks. Burger King? sucks. McDonalds? really really sucks. IN-N-OUT is the king. They are fast, friendly, the food is awesome, and they never, ever get your order wrong.

     

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  11.  
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    Rikko, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 8:57am

    Why?

    What's the point? They're still going to screw up your order.

     

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  12.  
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    Keith, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 9:04am

    Efficiency but yet somewhat disturbing.

    The strangest thing I've ever encountered related to efficency was a resturant worker taking a drive-thru order while using the urinal in the restroom.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    awwtbone, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 9:05am

    In-N-Out

    In-N-Out messed up my order once that I can remember in the past 3 years. Highly respected resturant. Im tired of those stupid 1 dollar burgers and dont even look worth eating. 99c tacos, famous stars, chicken filet, all a pretty bad thing to eat. Frankly, id rather spend the few extra dollars and get a Double-Double and be content for the rest of the day. If you disagree, youve never had one...

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Manon, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 9:06am

    Re: California Masochism

    It's funny, the Hardee's site has a history of the company, but doesn't even mention that they were a fried chicken joint at one point in time.

     

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  15.  
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    Posterlogo, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 9:25am

    hardly a low-end burger.

    I think you might be judging by price rather than quality. Yes, you can get a $10 burger at some diner-like place that's decent, but goddamn are those in-and-out burgers way better. Even those diner burgers come from frozen meat and produce, which is not the case at any in&out. This is why they have not significantly expanded beyond california or even beyond their 4 item menu. I believe this article does not apply to in&out, they are not the same fast food as mcds, etc. Hell, they aren't even that fast, but it's worth the wait.

     

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  16.  
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    whateva, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 9:27am

    Re: California Masochism

    Go home to your grits. I don't torture myself to "fit in". dorpus, you make a point of prowling every techdirt entry, posting first, and moving on after leaving a comment that is usually so negative in its tone that it rarely focuses on the article, but rather takes an opportunity to be highly offensive for no reason. get a life asshole.

     

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  17.  
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    dorpus, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 9:28am

    Re: California Masochism

    >IN-N-OUT is the king. They are fast, friendly, the food is awesome, and they never, ever get your order wrong.< br>
    I thought In-n-out tasted terrible compared to the other fast food chains. The orders were slow, the staff were all frowning Mexican women who spoke no English. As for "getting your order wrong", well, there are 4 items on the menu. A restaurant that hides its real menu from customers? I might as well go to a Chinese restaurant for that.

     

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  18.  
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    E. coli, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 9:36am

    Re: California Masochism

    Dorpus really has it wrong here. Though Jamba Juice is another in a string of West Coast trenderaunts, and Togo's sucks all kinds of butt, In-N-Out Burger is by far the top of the fast-food pyramid. They're inexpensive without being cheap, the customer service is great, and you can order your burger damn near any way you want it. Now that I'm living in Colorado, I really - REALLY - miss my 4x4, animal style.

     

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  19.  
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    Roachmill, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 10:00am

    Re: California Masochism

    My wife & I stop at McDonalds Drive Thru every morning for breakfast. They have one of those double drive thru's and at least twice a week they tell us to hold while they take orders from people who came after us at the second speaker and at least three times a week they try to short us one hashbrown. They look at you like you're an ass if you check the bag at the window. I wonder how much money they make just in shorted hashbrowns every day.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Don, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 10:48am

    Self-service ordering...

    For most of us, just having the ability to read, understand, and post to tech dirt implies being able to quickly and easily place an order at a self-service drive-though fast food restaurant.
    Now...recall the last time you waited in line at an ATM as granny or some other person with a less than required volume of gay matter poked away mindlessly at the keypad, desperately trying to grasp the technology...
    Now imagine 5 of them pulled in ahead of you at Mickey D's...
    Nuff said?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 10:52am

    Re: California Masochism


    You eat at McDonalds every day, and your biggest concern is being shorted a hash brown? How are you still alive? What a charmed life you lead.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    haggie, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 11:18am

    No Subject Given

    Fast food is made by lazy idiots employees for lazy idiot customers. That is why the industry must work so hard to automate the order/payment and the cooking/serving systems.

     

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  23.  
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    hautedawg, Feb 1st, 2006 @ 11:35am

    Re: No Subject Given

    And Haggie's greasy fingerprints are on this post as he slurps his Frosty and grubs chili cheese fries...

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    DodgerBob, May 8th, 2006 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Re: California Masochism

    Fast??? I can't believe you used "fast" and In-N-Out in the same sentence. The only thing fast about the entire experience is how fast you'll be done with your burger because they are so small! Give me Carl's Jr. Six Dollar Burger everytime!

     

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