The Restaurant

The Restaurant
Formal Dining

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dining Out: Drive-Thru's

Recently someone asked me, "How hard is it really!? Every time I go to WhereEver Burger they get my order wrong!" I will try to explain...
First, before the person even hears your order, you have to know what you want. What's the difference between a burrito and an enchillada? Should I get the Double Cheese Burger or the McDouble? Do you know what comes on a Whopper? The whole process starts with you communicating what you think you want to them. (No there isn't mustard on a Whopper).
Next, it has to come out of your mouth that way (no big deal, but people miss speak). It's common for people to be thinking Jr. Bacon Cheese Burger but say Double Bacon Cheese Burger. Do you want a Quarter-Pounder or a Double Quarter-Pounder, one word makes all the difference between complete satisfaction and a moody customer.
Ensure you speak in a reasonable volume. Do not whisper your order, remove the cigarette from your lips, get off your cell phone, and avoid yelling into my ear. This will help you get what you want.
So, your end of the deal is taken care of. You feel that all you needed to do was speak and drive around to the first (or second) window. Simple right?
However, the words travel to a little box a few feet from you to the speaker. These things arn't cheap to fix, so if the speaker blows, you may get someone asking you to repeat yourself often.
Even if the speaker is working fine remember that 327 Hemi makes a lot of noise, not to mention the ambulance flying down the side street, or your kid's in the back seat raising cain. It doesn't help that your drunk friend thinks you are a "Rockstar" if he keeps yelling, your order will be wrong.
Then order travels through the box into the restaurant (nothing too complicated)
Or in some cases this thing is out-sorced to another country, so the order flies through space to India or some place like that. In either situation you face some static and shorts, your order may come through in waves.
From the speaker it goes into the other person's ear. No big deal except for the fryers beeping, the soda fountain running, the kids screaming, the manager yelling, the cash register ringing, the hoods sucking, doors creeking, shoes squeeking, etc. etc.
We will assume for argument's sake that all parties involved are completely fluent in English, which is almost never the case.
The order goes from the ear to the person, then they input it into the POS. Not complicated but if you are in a hurry and you have to hit several different tiny buttons on a computer, you are likely to make a mistake occasionally. The more "special" your meal the more button strokes.
Next, to the kitchen! The order is sent from the computer to a moniter or a printer in the back. The kitchen staff reads the tickets (assuming we are all fluent in English again) and begins to prepare the order. This can be complicated. Words are ALWAYS abbreviated to various things:
  • Dbl Cbrgr
  • Dbl w/Chz
  • D HB w/ Am
Then you can run into trouble with modifiers (mods):
  • Dbl w/Chz
    • 86 Am, sub Chedr, no pickles/ketchup, sub must, x onion
  • Garden
    • no tom, ranch DOS
Keep in mind that different foods can and usually come from different parts of the kitchen. The guy making your burger is not the guy making your salad is not the guy cooking your chicken.
Let's assume that is all right. It's all understood and made perfectly. Next the food goes into what is called the window. In an ideal world the only food in the window would be one order, but often times there is too much going on for someone to be waiting for food, but someone does this job and they are called the expoditer. This person gathers up the order. This means the person goes through all the food in the window and finds the items to complete your order. (He/She is reading a moniter or a ticket). Even if EVERYTHING is perfect up to this stage if this person grabs the wrong sandwhich and stuffs it into a bag, the order is INSTANTLY and COMPLETELY wrong. Not only is it wrong for YOU it's wrong for the OTHER GUY.
Past that there is a steady stream of cars driving through and it has been known that a bag go out the window to another car. It's silly, but it happens. Usually this problem occurs when the expoditor sets the bag down and the window operator thinks it's for the current vehicle when in reality it is for the car behind them.
Finally, it goes from the window operator to you!

Let's recap the number of individuals:
  • 1, You
  • 2, Order Taker
  • 3-6 Kitchen
  • 4-7 Expoditer
  • 5-8 Order Taker/Window Operator
That's an easy 5 people.
Unfortunately, many of these 4-7 people are as described in an earlier post (high schoolers or passing through). These people are paid minimum wage and are treated pretty crummy, don't expect too much from them. Also, many of them don't speak English very well, but none the less, even if the language barrier is nonexsistant consider this happens hundreds of times a day, so it is possible to get your order right. It seems like a miracle to me that anything does come out right.
Hopefully you are beginning to see how things can get a little mixed up. It's a long complicated process that takes literally minutes if not seconds to complete. There's a lot going on. It's easy to screw up.

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