Food Industry

Can your restaurant take an order within 15 seconds?

McDonald's Sets a high bar to take a drive-thru customer's order within 15 seconds.
Can your restaurant take an order within 15 seconds?

On average, a McDonald’s restaurant generates 70% of its sales in the drive-thru. So they're a great example as one of the first concepts rollout drive-thrus in their system and who are best in class for drive-thru service. In fact, McDonald's reached as high as 100% during the pandemic as restaurants closed their indoor dining rooms. It became critically important for operators to staff and train order takers, assemblers, runners and presenters to maintain efficiency with the increased off-premise demand.

McDonald’s shift managers rely heavily on hourly reports of sales, service times, and car counts to understand where there might be a bottleneck in their drive-thru operations. As soon as a car pulls up to the order window, a clock begins ticking under a green car icon on the screen in the kitchen. If the wait time goes above the restaurant’s target at any point in the drive-thru, the car turns yellow as a warning, and then red when the wait goes over a minute above target.

A great example is McDonald's which has broken their drive-thru customer journey into 3 parts, ordering, preparation, and order hand off.

The first measure is order time. The recommended time to meet targets is 15 seconds.

Order takers are trained to give a warm, friendly greeting and suggest deals or limited time offers. So if a customer opts to orders McNuggets, the order taker should recommend Tangy BBQ sauce since that is the most popular choice. Making suggestions cuts down time on a driver deciding between six different dipping sauces after the order taker lists them all.

When McDonald’s launched its loyalty program in 2021, the first question a crew member stationed at the drive-thru speaker asked is if the customer would be using the MyMcDonald's Rewards to order or pay. Showing the drive-thru can also be a power marketing tool, as it helped drive customer usage of  the app to 127 million users worldwide.

The second measure in a customer's drive-thru journey continues post order to tracking how long it takes to make and get the food bagged. For McDonald's the have use the Kitchen Video System (KVS) time. This begins as soon as the customer completes their order and determines how long it takes the kitchen crew to cook and assemble the meal. If a restaurant is properly stocking its product, the kitchen will have hot, fresh ingredients ready to go. McDonald's uses a Universal Heating Cabinet (UHC). 72% of McDonald’s drive thru delays are due to waiting on food that is out of stock or not prepared. The KVS timer ends when all of the order’s sandwich items have been assembled and wrapped or boxed.

That customer journey is not complete until the bagged order with all food and drinks is handed to the driver at the drive-thru present window. McDonald's breaks it up with the final part of the drive-thru’s journey. The time it takes get a bagged order to the customers car. They call it - Order End to Present End (OEPE) time. The OEPE timer begins when the order is finished and stops when the bagged  The ideal OEPE time is 120 seconds or less, but this depends on a restaurant’s location and traffic. Capacity and throughput are impacted by arrival rates, items per order, volume, and sandwich count.

Breaking up the drive-thru journey into these three parts, allows an operators to see where the bottle neck is. For example, if the KVS time is slow and OEPE is fast, there is likely a production bottleneck in the kitchen. If KVS is fast and OEPE is slow, the issue may be at Fry, McCafe, or Beverage stations.

A single-lane drive-thru has an average capacity of 100 to 120 cars per hour. A side-by-side configuration can increase capacity to 180 cars per hour. Every car counts in the drive-thru. A long line can drive away potential customers and sales. Observing why cars are blocked and cannot move forward is just as important to diagnosing the drive-thru as focusing on improving process times.

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