Upcoming Technology in Fast Food Drive-Thrus

CNN has an article up, explaining the cutting-edge technological battle between the fast food chains: drive-thru automation. It will surprise none who have experienced the annoyance of trying to order a cheeseburger through a fuzzy, warbling speaker from an anonymous immigrant on the other end that the strategy these companies are banking on is absolutely clueless. What will companies like Burger King and Wendy’s be doing to guarantee a better drive-thru experience for you, the consumer? One: outsource your order to call centers, possibly in India. Two: use computer programs that guess your upcoming order.

Why don’t these companies just take the smart tact: take an incompetent employee or half-assed program out of the loop entirely? Allow drive-thru customers to just punch in their order on easy-to-read computer screens. While that still depends on an anonymous incompetent on the other end actually filling that order correctly, is anyone who has ever endured customer service from Dell recently really relishing the idea of someone identifying himself as “Joe America” fielding his order for a cheeseburger from ten thousand miles away?

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  1. Smoking Pope says:

    If you let customers punch in their order, expect the fast food lines to get longer and longer. I spend way too much time as it is behind people who are utterly mystified by keypads. You throw pictures of hamburgers and fries on there, and we’re going to see a new phenomena: McRage.

  2. nweaver says:

    Or do what In & Out does during high volume time: Have an employee with a wireless PDA just walk through the line taking orders.

  3. Brian Drew says:

    Hmm, a computer screen that you use to put in your own orders. Kind of like what they use at Wawa, Royal Farms and Sheetz. I’ve never gotten a wrong order from those things. It’s just amazing that these only exist in like bumblefuck nowhere, and New Jersey.

  4. Benko says:

    how about this: they eliminate the drive thru altogether. this would make service slower at restaurants, so eventually people would get pissed off at having to wait and start boycotting the restaurants so we can finally end this freaking national fast food addiction once and for all.

  5. Or just get . . . you know . . . decent damned intercoms. I actually tend to be fine with the screen – and – intercom setup that let’s me see what I’m ordering as I tell it to the boy or girl taking my order. I can honestly say that if any fast food chain outsources their damned order-taking to India (and somehow it just seems to me that doing so can’t be *that* cost-effective in this situation) I will never patronize them again. I *hate* trying to talk to overseas Customer Service. You always see these filler stories on Dateline or whatev where they talk about these industrious people learning clear accent-less American English but I’m yet to talk to anyone in such a setup without straining to hear and asking them to repeat themselves multiple times. I make a point of not doing business with any company that outsources their customer service (unless they ARE the ones that are so good and they’re pulling the wool over my eyes!). Not because I’m a Buy-American Anti-Globalization Xenophobe but because getting problems fixed is obnoxious enough when I can actually understand the person on the other end.
    Gander

  6. Gary Potter says:

    They could always outsource the drive thru customers to a call center. No kidding, it’s been done and HyperActive Technologies has a product that predicts what orders will be based upon time of day, vehicle type, etc. More here – http://www.acemakr.com/online/2004/08/faster_fast_foo.html