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Thread: Outsourcing Drive-Throughs

  1. #1
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    Outsourcing Drive-Throughs

    This one has me absolutely baffled.

    'Want fries with that?' could be coming from Delaware

    Pull up to a drive-through speaker in Middletown, R.I., for example, and you could be talking — via Internet phone lines — to Alpha Telemarketing employee Annette Miser at her desktop PC 306 highway miles away in Delaware. At a typical mealtime, 12 or so "agents" like Miser are handling the traffic for nine restaurants in five states, from New England to the South, and flashing orders to on-site crews.
    12 workers in 9 restaurants? Is that better?
    More equipment cost and risk of failure?
    What about current issues? (ex: sorry fries are taking a bit longer)
    What about special requests?

    Such a system can increase speed and avoid mistakes by overburdened on-site workers
    So shift the burden, why does an order taker need to dispense beverages for instance? And what mistakes are you introducing into the system?

    Remote order-taking can shave drive-through time by milliseconds, which can add up to millions for the industry, said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association.
    Excuse me? The first time there is a gap between cars, or the order is not ready when the car gets to the pick-up window, those milliseconds gained are lost.
    Ok; so now my drive through has shaved seconds off a shift. If I serviced the same number of customers, where did I save money.

    Not to mention the cultural differences they mention later in the article.

  2. #2
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    So how long before someone in China is cutting my hair via remotely controlled mechanical appendages?

    And I'm glad that to them I'm not worth a few extra miliseconds.

    And lastly, hope I'm not offending anyone, but how overburdened are the order takers already? I mean, I've never had one that can't handle the two things that they apparently do. Unless they're talking resturantes in small towns that has the same person taking orders, making them, taking money, and passing out the order. But how could this system possibly be that much cheaper than just hiring another minimum wage employee?

  3. #3
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    A local McDonald's owner has been using this system for years. He cuts costs by not having to have so many employees at each of his stores. A single remote order taker can take the orders for several places at once. That allows each franchise to eliminate one employee per shift. Even at minimum wage levels, that adds up, especially when you add the employee costs other than salary (e.g. workers compensation insurance, liability insurance, etc.)

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Jacks View Post
    A local McDonald's owner has been using this system for years. He cuts costs by not having to have so many employees at each of his stores.
    But; didn't those employees multitask?
    Take an order
    Take the money
    Pour the drinks
    Check the bags (well, OK, this one's rare)
    Hand the food over

    Is it possible that he is able to delegate responsibilities a little better to be able to break away this single task?

    I can maybe see for those stores that have seperate order/pay window vs delivery window, but I'd like to see various numbers on this.

  5. #5
    Soon they won't even use humans but AI voice recognition. They'll have to be slightly better than the typical voice recognition system currently in use. For example they will need a video link for lip reading to reduce the error rate.

  6. #6
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    This isn't anything terribly new. I believe there was an article a long ways back describing how Hawaii did this, by sourcing to California. I don't think it's a matter of simply trying to shave a millisecond here or there, but the total time of service.

    It's like those Starbucks that actually made models to determine how long a typical customer is willing to wait in line to buy something. They use those models to determine the growth potential for franchise locations, which explains why in some locations, there are 3 Starbucks within 10 blocks of each other, or even why there are two Starbucks in the same high-rise building (going from memory here, might be off). What may seem ludicrous to use is strategy from the companies' perspective, and if it doesn't pay off, they'll stop.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ronald Brak View Post
    Soon they won't even use humans but AI voice recognition. They'll have to be slightly better than the typical voice recognition system currently in use. For example they will need a video link for lip reading to reduce the error rate.
    Actually, I'm rather surprised that fast-food places haven started using something like a simple ATM touchscreen, where customers could enter the orders themselves, swipe their credit card, and just drive up to the window.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    But; didn't those employees multitask?
    Take an order
    Take the money
    Pour the drinks
    Check the bags (well, OK, this one's rare)
    Hand the food over

    Is it possible that he is able to delegate responsibilities a little better to be able to break away this single task?

    I can maybe see for those stores that have seperate order/pay window vs delivery window, but I'd like to see various numbers on this.
    A number of drive-through places around here have the order-taker off by himself. Sometimes they take money, sometimes not. They never touch the order. These people in particular could be out-sourced for a significant financial gain. Even if you have a multi-tasker (order/money/drinks, etc, it might be worth the investment to off-load one of those tasks to a voice-house a thousand miles away.)

    Of course, it might not, too.

  9. #9
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    Re: Outsourcing Drive-Throughs

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Jacks View Post
    A local McDonald's owner has been using this system for years. He cuts costs by not having to have so many employees at each of his stores. A single remote order taker can take the orders for several places at once. That allows each franchise to eliminate one employee per shift. Even at minimum wage levels, that adds up, especially when you add the employee costs other than salary (e.g. workers compensation insurance, liability insurance, etc.)
    Yup, the bean counters are taking control over yet another aspect of American society.

    Pretty soon they will determine that it would provide the next level of the leanest value-added optimization if all American companies employed only labor located anywhere but in America.

    Of course I'd shed copious tears over the first American bean counter who lost his job to a lower-cost bean counter in Thailand. Ditto re the CEO whose job was outsourced.

    BTW, this particular batch of cost-saving baloney has spread to the media.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr obvious View Post
    . . . which explains why in some locations, there are 3 Starbucks within 10 blocks of each other, or even why there are two Starbucks in the same high-rise building (going from memory here, might be off).
    There was a pretty funny article in The Onion a while back about a Starbucks opening in the bathroom of a Starbucks. I wonder if they had a bathroom in the Starbucks of the Starbucks in the bathroom?

  11. #11
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    Bottom line, everything they do has to do with cutting costs, and they are at the razor's edge margin where the increments are very tiny for each instance; but big when taking into account the bajillions of instances. Also, they don't really care how people feel, as long as they keep buying.

    Consumers can complain all they want about lousy service and the junk that is passed off as quality products; if they keep going back and spending their money - the WalMartization of the US is not only going to continue in retail, but is going to propogate eventually to all lines of business.

    It is a race to the bottom, how cheap can they get in all aspects of service and goods? In the end (IMO) everybody loses. How mindless do you think most jobs will become when business models call for employees to not even be required to handle 2 tasks like filling a drink cup and taking an order (even when it has become order by number).

    I think they consider employees as a necessary evil, and would be most happy if they could be eliminated altogether. The shortsightedness of such models is really apparent when you consider what happens as the model propogates across all industries and drives down earning power, and the consumers (the only real value of people in these models is as consumers) don't even have the moola to buy the incredibly cheap junk the businesses sell. That is the logical end game if this kind of model is run to it's extreme.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr obvious View Post
    This isn't anything terribly new. I believe there was an article a long ways back describing how Hawaii did this, by sourcing to California. I don't think it's a matter of simply trying to shave a millisecond here or there, but the total time of service.
    You're right...it was discussed here two years ago.

    Which brings me to my next peeve. The media never relates stories to previous stories anymore. They rely on the public to forget things so that thier story is new. They could have done a followup with this to see how well it's working.

  13. #13
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    This has actually been in place in St. Cloud MN USA for at least 10 years. Not as a cost reduction, but as an accommodation for the order taker at Val's. Little family owned burger joint, and the order taker worked off-site. I think it was probably an age or mobility issue.

    Anyway, you walk in, pick up the phone, and place your order. It pops on the screen for the cooks to see.

    Decent food too. Fast food does not have to be homogenous goo that you do not need teeth to consume.

  14. #14
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    The drive to increase automation and increase efficiency serves to increase productivity. American labor is relatively expensive compared to much of the world. The only way many American companies that have to compete can hope to survive is to increase productivity and thereby lower the per unit costs.

    Replacing labor with automation has been going on for decades. Back during the Great Depression when labor was very cheap (25% unemployment rate meant there was an abundant supply of labor), it wasn't uncommon for projects like construction sites to employ people like ditch diggers who manually performed tasks. As labor became more expensive, construction firms switched to equipment like back hoes to replace workers. Sure, a back hoe is expensive and you have to pay the operator more than a ditch digger, but one man with a back hoe can do the work of dozens of men with shovels.

    People who are too young to remember or who have short memories often don't know about earlier waves of automation sweeping across other areas of employment. Back in the 1950s and before, it wasn't uncommon for corporations to employ book keepers (accountants) who did things manually. Thousands of those people were replaced with computers that did the job cheaper, faster, and more accurately. Likewise, I knew the man who introduced spot welding to auto assembly likes decades ago. It was done to reduce labor costs. For many years now, much of that job has been done by industrial robots.

    Don't look for this trend to end anytime soon. Even low end companies like fast food joints face competitive pressure to keep costs down while being squeezed by increasing labor costs (e.g. increases in the minimum wage). Something has to give, and most often, the loser is the low skilled employee.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    Excuse me? The first time there is a gap between cars, or the order is not ready when the car gets to the pick-up window, those milliseconds gained are lost.
    Ok; so now my drive through has shaved seconds off a shift. If I serviced the same number of customers, where did I save money.

    Not to mention the cultural differences they mention later in the article.
    Simple - what happens when a single restuarant is devoid of cars in the drive through? The employees still get paid.

    Spread that out over 12 restuarants and you've significantly smoothed the sporadic demaind. That doesn't just save milliseconds - it saves several minutes each hour.

    Furthermore, when order takers also spend time shoveling fries and packing burgers into bags, the shifting between duties also eats of valuable time - again, measured in minutes each hour.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    Simple - what happens when a single restuarant is devoid of cars in the drive through? The employees still get paid.

    Spread that out over 12 restuarants and you've significantly smoothed the sporadic demaind. That doesn't just save milliseconds - it saves several minutes each hour.
    See, now that makes sense. The article makes it sound like it would shave time of each order without any reference to down time.
    I still would like to see some numbers, because I'm sure the call center would need to be fully staffed at certain times of the day.

  17. #17
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    Done properly, the demand at any given time could be managed by having the call center work across time zones. It would seem reasonable to assume that demand peaks for fast food breakfast from perhaps 6-8 AM and for lunch from 11 AM to 1 PM. If you have order taker employees at each restaurant, they're not going to be very productive during the slack periods. That means the manager either has to pay someone who isn't productive or has to send them home, limiting their hours. Neither is a very good solution.

    Suppose the call center is located in the Central time zone but also services restaurants in Eastern and Mountain zones. The slow 8-11 AM period in the Eastern time zone would overlap with the busy 6-8 AM Mountain zone and the 7-8 AM hour of the Central zone. As those zones go slow, the pace picks up in the Eastern zone. Within limits, you could keep the call center traffic fairly steady over a period of hours this way.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjumperdon View Post
    I think they consider employees as a necessary evil, and would be most happy if they could be eliminated altogether. The shortsightedness of such models is really apparent when you consider what happens as the model propogates across all industries and drives down earning power, and the consumers (the only real value of people in these models is as consumers) don't even have the moola to buy the incredibly cheap junk the businesses sell. That is the logical end game if this kind of model is run to it's extreme.

    Anybody here remember the automarts?

  19. #19
    The only thing I can think about this is that the employees at the call center would get less prank calls, and some call centers do break shifts up so for example you come in at 8am-12pm then come back from 3pm-7pm or whatever they need, and some places the employees can take call for different things at same time like two different hotel companies.
    ...I'm still free, you can't take the sky from me.

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    Re: Outsourcing Drive-Throughs

    Quote Originally Posted by LurchGS View Post
    Anybody here remember the automarts?
    Sure. Back in the 1960s under his pseudonym of PDQ Bach, Professor Peter Schickele wrong a Concerto for Horn & Hardart.

  21. #21
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    oh. my. gorsh! And the Turtle Mountain Marching Band joined in.

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    Re: Outsourcing Drive-Throughs

    Quote Originally Posted by LurchGS View Post
    oh. my. gorsh! And the Turtle Mountain Marching Band joined in.
    ...while on leave from the Naval Base where they form part of the Tactical Wind Ensemble. One wonders who solos these days on the dill piccolo, you know, the instrument that plays only sour notes?

  23. #23
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    I had a friend once.. he just did NOT understand what made this so funny. I, however, thank my parents.

    (who also introduced me to Florence Foster Jenkins - but she's funny for a different reason)

  24. #24
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    Here in my place, we have the a hotline usually 5 numbers we use in ordering fast foods whereever we are. Its saves time , because I don't have to check the local phone number of the nearby fastfood restaurant to order.

  25. 2007-May-17, 01:32 PM

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