mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why do drive-thru windows suck?

I don't go out to eat all that much, mostly because I'm cheap. But some nights I won't have any food in the house that I want to eat, or I'll have a craving for something particular, and I'll get fast food. I usually go to the drive- through window - with what I'm paying for my house, I might as well eat in it, and plus I don't have to get out of my car.

But I've noticed that most drive-thru windows suck. There's a Taco Bell near my house I frequent, and another one on the way back from the bar I play trivia at that I'm also a regular at. Both are horrible - the drive-thru is designed so you can't get out once you pull in, which sucks if it's a long line and you are in a hurry. Service is usually slow, and the speakers are awful - you can never hear what they are saying, and they can't hear you either. One of the T-Bells I go to has been remodeled, and did add one nice feature - a screen to show your order, so if they screw it up you can correct them. But it's still an unpleasant experience.

One of my biggest pet peeves is places that don't put a menu board further back for people waiting in line. It gives them something to look at, but it also means they will know what they want to order BEFORE they get to the speaker, which means less time stammering and shorter order times. It also probably would increase sales - people will discover things on the menu that they wouldn't have ordered otherwise. It's cheap, easy and profitable, so why do so many places drop the ball?

It seems counter intuitive - drive-thru customers are the ideal customers. They don't take up table space or sit around your dining room or leave a pile of trash. They are in and out. They are also your marginal customers, the ones who maybe were not planning on stopping, so anything you can do to make their experience pleasant means they might come back. So why don't stores put more emphasis on making their experience pleasant, their wait short, and their service better?

One thing I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone do is install a touch screen. A number of convenience stores that do made-to-order stuff do this - Sheetz and Royal Farms around my area. It's great because you can customize your order, it's printed out for the person making it so there is less chance of screw-up, and it saves the labor for the chain who doesn't need to have someone taking orders. I suppose it would be tough to make a screen that can be adjusted for various height vehicles, but come on - if we put a man on the moon, we can make a better way of ordering a crunch taco than a speaker that makes most clock radios sound hi-fi.

One interesting solution is the one I encountered at the drive-thru at Chick-fil-a this morning. There was a sign touting "in-person drive thru service" and a guy standing next to the order board with a wireless terminal. He took my order, and swiped my card. It was easier dealing with a person than a disembodied voice, and faster. Although neither he nor the person handing me my order remembered to ask me if I wanted cream and sugar for my coffee. Not perfect, but it's a start.


At 6:56 PM, Blogger jf713jf said...

the only problem with your touch screen idea is that it would really slow down the foodmaking process and cause a waste of food for the restaurant. in a quickchek or wawa, the food making process doesn't begin until you say you are done with your order. the reason fast food is so fast is that the people doing the making start as soon as it pops up on the screen. if a customer took forever or kept changing his order, there would be much food waste and it would take forever.


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