Call Center Takes Drive-Through Orders

Jul 19, 2004

By George Anderson

Steven Bigari, a McDonald’s franchisee in Colorado, said, “I don’t know about tech. I know about people who like to eat hamburgers.”

Mr. Bigari, who runs 12 McDonald’s, may not consider himself expert but he hit upon a decidedly hi-tech idea that has improved the speed and accuracy of drive-throughs in his restaurants and now other fast food franchisees are turning to him for answers, as well.

Rather than employ a traditional drive-through system, Mr. Bigari created a call center system.

The system works, according to The New York Times, with customers using an on-site phone to call-in their order. “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.”

According to Mr. Bigari, the call-center system has cut wait time in his drive-through lanes to one minute, five seconds. The average for McDonald’s restaurants nationally is two minutes, 36 seconds. Mr. Bigari’s drive-throughs handle 30 more cars an hour than they did prior to implementing the call center system. The amount of errors on orders has also been cut in half.

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on the use of call-centers such as Steven Bigari’s in drive-through operations?

According to New York Times piece, McDonald’s testing a call center operation with three stores near its headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill. The restaurant
chain is using different software than Mr. Bigari’s.

Jim Sappington, a McDonald’s vice president for information technology, said it was “way, way too early” to tell if the call center idea would work across
all McD’s restaurants here in the states.

George Anderson – Moderator

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