Culinary no-no #709

THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!

MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 22: Cars line up at a McDonald's drive-thru on April 22, 2020 in Mill Valley, California. McDonald’s announced plans to offer free Thank You Meals to first responders on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic between April 22 and May 5. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

I’m old enough to remember when a pimply faced teenager would take your McDonald’s order, write it down on a notepad with pencil, then add it all up as you stood and watched, hoping desperately the kid got it right.

Bad. Very bad.

Located at 76th and Rawson is Franklin’s (WI) only McDonald’s. Drive-thrus at fast food places are generally inconsistent. However, I give high marks to the drive-thru staff here in Franklin.

Most often the order is accurate. I don’t have to beg for napkins or a receipt. Workers have a friendly attitude. There are occasions where it’s obvious they’re not totally interested. But that’s an exception.

Drive-thru efficiency could be better at McDonald’s.

The market research company SeeLevel HX has been conducting their QSR (Quick-Service Restaurant) Drive-Thru study for 20 years. The 2020 edition was released last November.

A comprehensive, nationally representative survey of drive-thru consumers in the U.S. was done using an online survey sample. Data was collected across at least 85 visits to drive-thrus at ten chains during the 2020 summer, just a few months after a national emergency was declared.

The study partnered with FoodserviceResults to study consumer satisfaction across a range of metrics at 17 limited-service companies. Figures were compiled that represent percentage of customers who were highly or somewhat satisfied by brand drive-thru experiences.

You can see McDonald’s needs improvement.

What could be a solution?

More workers?

Better workers?

Better training of workers?

Try removing a huge chunk of the human element.

Automation. Big time.

Back in June McDonald’s Corp. began testing automated voice order-taking technology at about 10 drive-thru restaurants in the Chicago area. According to McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski the new system is about 85% accurate and can take about 80% of orders. Some staff would be trained to work alongside the machines. “There is a big leap between going from 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the U.S.” said Kempczinski. “Do I think in five years from now you’re going to see a voice in the drive-thru? I do, but I don’t think that this is going to be something that happens in the next year or so. There’s still a lot of work, but I do feel good about the technical feasibility of it and the business case.”

The results thus far?

“One of the things that we’ve learned in our 10 restaurants that we’ve done it is: How do you train a crew to actually not want to jump in as soon as they hear a question or a pause?” Kempczinski said. “We’ve had to do a little bit of training of ‘just keep your hands off the steering wheel, let the computer do its work.’ As soon as there was a question or a hiccup, the crew had a tendency to just want to jump in. And it took a little bit of time to actually learn to trust the technology.”

So, to repeat, voice recognition software can get 85% of orders correct.

BUT, staff had to step in for around one in five orders.

And hang around in case a human had a complaint.

CULINARY NO-NO BONUS

ICYMI, Culinary no-no #708

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