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Welcome to McDonald’s, may WE take your order?

Steven Bigari, a McDonald’s franchisee, has dramatically increased the efficiency of his 12 McDonald’s by reducing its drive-through order time by 30 seconds to a little more than one-minute per transaction. (That’s well below the McDonald’s drive-through average order time of two-minutes thirty-six seconds.)

Plus, this McDonald’s franchisee has increased the number of cars his drive-throughs handle by 15% from 226 cars per hour to 260 cars.

“This transforms my business. It’s bigger than drive-through,” contends Bigari.

What in the name of the Hamburgler is going on here? How can a McDonald’s record such startling order-taking efficiency?

To achieve such efficiency, Mr. Bigari has done the seemingly radical … he has outsourced his drive-through order taking function to a call center in Colorado Springs.

Yes, he has outsourced order-taking at his McDonald’s to a call center.

“Cheap, quick and reliable telecommunications lines let the order takers in Colorado Springs converse with customers in Missouri, take an electronic snapshot of them, display their order on a screen to make sure it is right, then forward the order and the photo to the restaurant kitchen. People picking up their burgers never know that their order traverses two states and bounces back before they can even start driving to the pickup window.” [source: New York Times article from 7.18.04 (registration req’d)]

What has been the reaction at McDonald’s Corporate offices? McDonald’s is intrigued and has started a small drive-through call center test with three locations near its Oak Brook, IL headquarters. However, McDonald’s is focusing its resources more on other customer service improvement areas such as installing wi-fi access in its restaurants and introducing credit card/debit card payment options.

Pleased with the results of his order-taking outsourcing system, Mr. Bigari now offers customers the option of ordering from their table using a phone and parents watching over their kids in the playground areas can phone-in orders and have their food delivered.

Hmm … whattaya think about this? How do you think this would impact your “experience” at McDonald’s? As long as you get your order faster and more accurate, do you care if a “call center” takes your order?

I know one thing, out-sourcing the drive-through order taking function will make the “drive-through incoherent garble” a thing of the past … which is a good thing.

Further learning:
New York Times article on Mr. Bigari’s drive-through call center
Brand Autopsy post on McDonald’s testing self-service kiosks
Fast Company article on self-service kiosks

28 Comments

  • McCallCenterUnbelievable post on drive-thru efficiency over at Brand Autopsy. The new order takers have great perks too… They don’t need to eat the food…!

  • The idea of outsourcing a drive-through order is absolutly facinating. If it really increaces efficiency and accuracy, what difference does it make? Most people that order via drive through window are not exactly doing it so they can interact with employees and take in the enviorment. They’re trying to get their food and hit the highway, so I see this new idea as a plus for the business and customer.

  • Faster Big Macs Through Outsourcing2 minutes 36 seconds is the industry average for a McDonald’s drive-thru transaction. How does Steven Bigari keep his 12 franchises under half that?Outsourcing.All the drive-thru orders at his Missouri resturants are taken by a call center…

  • Outsourcing The Drive ThruMarginal Revolution: “Who would have guessed that when taking drive-thru orders at a McDonald’s it’s more efficient to send the order not 25ft into the restaurant but 900 miles away to a call-in center which then relays the order via…

  • Using Technology Innovatively To Improve Your BusinessI got a big kick out of a post

  • This is fascinating innovation. Just great use of technology. Thanks for posting.

  • More speed at McDonaldsThe average time to fulfill a drive through order at McDonalds is 2 minutes 36 seconds. Mr. Bigari, who owns 12 McDonalds franchises, reduced this time by 30 seconds to 1 minute! …

  • McDonald’s outsourcing…this piece is running around the blogosphere: a McDonalds franchise has found that by outsourcing order taking to a call center, volume is up, accuracy is up, and everyone is happy. I’m less impressed than most. Mostly, this is about dedicating resourc…

  • Anonymous says:

    How bout just punching buttons on an order board? Get that shit down to 15 seconds.

  • Chuck Conway says:

    I would have never though to apply what seems like such a drastic solution to what seems like a simple and small problem.

  • Linkalicious!Vocation Vacations seems like a ridiculously cool idea. Out of my price range, but ridiculously cool. More fun with spam:…

  • McDonald’s – can’t be outsourced? Think againA MickeyD’s in Missouri, the show me state, has outsourced the order taking at the drive-thru. It’s reduced the drive-thru time which is good for the customer (that is, if you want to eat that food – see Supersize Me.)

  • LinkdumpBest Free Software from PCWorld * first details of MT 3.1. Anxious to play with the category features. Macrovision CD copy protection. Time to turn off autoplay. Picasa for free. Jerry Colonna’s blog What’s talking all my memory? Great…

  • LinkdumpBest Free Software from PCWorld first details of MT 3.1. Anxious to play with the category features. Macrovision CD copy protection. Time to turn off autoplay. Picasa for free. Jerry Colonna’s blog What’s talking all my memory? Great tools…

  • A Sabre Geek says:

    Faster Fast FoodWell, at least a couple of companies think so. Last month, there was a story circulating about how a McDonalds franchisee improved efficiency of his 12 fast food emporiums by reducing drive through order time by 30 seconds. His time

  • Thanx for that great post!I’m writting a paper about the behaviour of McDonald’s in Switzerland and your article was realy interesting.Go on!

  • Matt C says:

    A rise in efficiency and productivity is never a bad thing (I can see the slogan now – Getting you Fatter, Faster!) but what happens to the people who worked the drive through window? Laid off or shipped to the fry basket? I wouldn’t be super-stoked over something that took a job away from someone in my community and gave it to someone in another state, all in the name of 34 more cars an hour. Ultimately, it benefits the owner the most. Does the restaraunt and it’s patrons see any benefit from the maximized earnings, like, say, a safer playground or healthier, more diverse menu options?

  • Kim xo says:

    Well seeing as NcDonalds is now a high tech manufacturing job in the US I’m glad to see threm gearing it up for outsourcing to an offshore call center as our local news reported would be the case today.With WalMart and their RFID tags soon there won’t be any cashiers there either.http://www.nocards.orgAmerica can send all their jobs away.We have too many of them as it is.

  • Kim xo says:

    Well seeing as NcDonalds is now a high tech manufacturing job in the US I’m glad to see them gearing it up for outsourcing to an offshore call center as our local news reported would be the case today.With WalMart and their RFID tags soon there won’t be any cashiers there either.http://www.nocards.orgAmerica can send all their jobs away.We have too many of them as it is.

  • annominous says:

    I think taking customers orders in another state is a good idea, but might be very confusing to both mcdonalds crew workers and mcdonalds customers, our regular customers know that when i’m there i know exactly what they want right when they walk through the door, they don’t need to order, now if they have to order by calling it in then that might upset our regulars…. Why call in their order when we know what they already want….You stated parents can call in their order with their cell phones while their children play in the playground, good idea, BUT, what if some people don’t have a phone?anyways good luck!

  • Jason says:

    Beware of hackers. If some 40 year old guy in his parents basement can hack into Paris Hilton’s Sidekick, what stops him from taking control of the order process and order nine Big Macs for the guy in the black Audi? It seems like everthing is being changed to 1’s and 0’s. This is not a bad thing, but always expect other people to be able to control it. I guess Mc Donalds can always blame it on the Hamburglar.

  • Tokakeke says:

    Are you brain dead or just didn’t read the post correctly?”I think taking customers orders in another state is a good idea, but might be very confusing to both mcdonalds crew workers and mcdonalds customers, our regular customers know that when i’m there i know exactly what they want right when they walk through the door, they don’t need to order, now if they have to order by calling it in then that might upset our regulars…. Why call in their order when we know what they already want….You stated parents can call in their order with their cell phones while their children play in the playground, good idea, BUT, what if some people don’t have a phone?”

  • ravi says:

    I heard this in Tom friedman’s book also.It is not very clear to me why the order taking -which seems reasonable simple should take more time at the local window than through the call center?

  • Bazaarz says:

    McDonalds and the call centre – next stepsThis is an old story but almost a year on and it’s still pulling traffic. The essence is that a group of 12 McDonalds’ stores has outsourced its drive through order taking and has achieved significant operational efficiencies. I like…

  • Ideentower says:

    Herzlich Willkommen im McDonalds Callcenter!Ein Lieferant von Ideentower ist gerade nach Boston gezogen. Daher kaum dann auch der interessante Hinweis auf http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/266/ – ein Video einer Vorlesung des renommierten Journalisten (u.a. für die New York Times) Thomas L. Friedma…

  • annette vaughn says:

    HI I WAS JUST WANTING TO KNOW HOW MANY MC DONALDS IS IT, IN THE USA? THANK YOU

  • not_sayin says:

    where do you apply for jobs. not as restraunt crew. but for the call center jobs. PLEASE HELP ME!!