Speed of Service 6: Execute Speedy Procedures

18 Oct

Are you a fast food manager who has to reduce his speed of service? Of course you are; we all are. Everyone is under immense pressure from above to reduce service times. My latest series of posts has been over how to do just that. The sixth and final tip is the most obvious one: execute speedy procedures. This is a complex way of saying: MOVE FASTER.

Take a moment to watch what your crew is doing in the drive thru and other areas of the store that directly affect drive-thru. Are they moving as fast as they could? If not, then as their manager, it is up to you to move them along faster.

Start with how an order is taken. The greeting (if you don’t have an automatic greeter) should be quick and to the point. I favor “Hi, may I take your order?” Simple and direct. Of course, corporate may want you to advertise products in your greeting, so you may not have any control over what you say.

Second, does the cashier urge the customer along politely? If we let them, many of our customers would take all day to order. I had someone on Wednesday take ten minutes to order her food–no joke! Fortunately, that was at front register, but we can’t let our customers do a similar move in drive-thru. To that end, the cashier should be in control of the flow of the order, not the customer. For example, instead of, “What kind of drink would you like with your value meal?” ask “Would you like a Coke (or Pepsi) with that?” Close-ended questions help drive-thru speed while open-ended ones invite a lot of thought.

Always assume the medium size when none is specified. Learning that trick has saved me so many seconds in drive-thru it is unbelievable.

Third, is your kitchen listening to the order as it is being taken and reacting to the order? Menu items that are seldom ordered are not in easy reach. Is someone immediately setting those items up when they are ordered?

Fourth, is your drive-thru cashier multitasking? This is extremely important and can’t be stressed enough. No one is going to survive in drive-thru if they can’t get drinks at the same time as someone is talking. That is the minimum multitasking that someone must do. The really good ones will be able to take an order and talk to someone at the window at the same time. I have a cashier who can take an order, talk to a customer, get all of the drinks, and text her friends on her phone–all without missing a beat. That’s multitasking! You won’t find many like that, so hold on to the ones that you do find.

Fifth, is your cashier repeating the order back each time? This is a cardinal sin in the fast-paced world of drive-thru. Never repeat an order back unless there is some question of accuracy or the customer requests it. We all know that most of the time the customer doesn’t remember what he just ordered, so there is little point to repeating it unless he requests it. While multitasking, it is possible that something got missed, but usually the cashier has a gut feeling that is the case, and then should repeat back the order just to be sure. But repeating the order should be a rarity. If a cashier is repeating a majority of the orders back because of a question of accuracy, then that person isn’t a drive-thru cashier and should be moved.

Are your people moving as fast as they could be? Probably not. Diagnose the problems at each position and clear up the bottlenecks, and you’ll have a faster team and much lower drive-thru times.

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12 Responses to “Speed of Service 6: Execute Speedy Procedures”

  1. Sydney Plumber January 24, 2009 at 10:22 am #

    Great Nice Post, Very Nice 6th Tip of Speed of Service…………

  2. cassie wassy January 16, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    I really like your tips very useful as i am new to the fast food industry and i need all the tips i can t get 🙂 i am still on my probational period and DONT wanna lose my job wanna make it as fast as i can 🙂

  3. HJ4Life January 25, 2011 at 3:22 am #

    Repeating the order is a cardinal sin?
    At Hungry Jacks (Au Burger King) where I work it’s one of the 7 steps of customer service. :S

  4. Contact Center Services March 9, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    Great post, I especially found it usefull where you started

  5. Kalovely June 1, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Very useful tips. Except that at the fast food place I work at we are required to repeat all orders. It makes perfect sense to repeat it right after taking the order. But having to repeat it again at the window really does just waste time. However, I’ve been told by the manager several times that I have to. I always get caught not repeating it at the very times when I feel it is the least necessary. Like when the order was very straight forward, like one or two meal deals (combos) with no modifiers. Corporate policy (and mine is a corporate location) makes it all the more difficult to meat their unrealistic goals.

    • Cory Tucholski June 6, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

      Yeah, I seem to be hearing from a lot of people–they are required by the rules to read orders back, even extremely simple ones. I never understood that, and I’ve always trained my folks to only repeat if the order is somehow unclear. The official Ops Manual at Wendy’s as of 2004 agreed with me: no reading back orders unless you or the customer is confused. Same at the Burger King franchise I worked for. I was required at Taco Bell way back when, but I haven’t been required since and make it part of my general rules not to repeat if I don’t have to.

      As far as your last comment: I agree with you 100%. That is one of the things I hate about fast food. The upper management sets hyper-unrealistic goals, and then designs procedures that make it more difficult to achieve them. Then they yell at you when you don’t make it, usually pointing to a store that is making them and following the rules as an example, when you know darn well that that store is cheating worse than you but you don’t want to rat them out because the GM is a good friend.

      Remember: most upper managers haven’t actually run a real store in 5 or more years. Procedures have changed and new challenges have been introduced, and they are totally unaware of how the new stuff impacts you. I’ve been away from Wendy’s since 2004. I was an awesome manager and a rising star, but I’d be lost if I went back and would have to be re-trained. I don’t know all of the new procedures! They have expanded the Frosty menu, added shakes, new salads, and some of the sandwiches are different. I’d be starting from scratch.

      So would most DMs. Hang in there, I’m sure things will get better for you!

      • humm September 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

        I totally agree with this post! My company expects a 90 second service time at the PUW and 7 second sandwiches, yet it takes 30 sec or more to make the new shakes and parfaits. The average customer takes a full 60 seconds to order, another 30 seconds to dig out those last few pennies they “just know are in there somewhere!”, and another 30 seconds to paw thru the bag and ask for extra ketchup… napkins… salt… straw for the frosty (what the crap is that about? Its frozen people! It ain’t goin up that straw anytime soon!)… and oh, yeah 5 cups of water! The only thing you can do to minimize the problem is have everything within arms length!

  6. Hilary Evans June 15, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    Agree with all of your comments — but down under in Australia we have created a new way in dealing with DT — we use a timer which all stores in the US use however our timer is superior and the data that we use involves all in the order process so improving vital SOS. == What is even more confusing is that we have proven our concept to be the best there is yet the US whihc is the king of Fast food has great diffcilty in embracing — just to let you know how good our system is MCDONALDS AUSTRALIA have removed all other timers now and only use an speficy our Brand of Summit timers — yet the US still has diffuclty in understadninmg our concept — Happt to install a timer free of charge in any store out there at no cost to the store owner to priove our ssytem makes money for you and moves the cars thru faster — not an assumption but a fact

  7. Amanda October 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Oh yes SOS, our company’s standard is 2:30, but they require a practical commercial worth of dialogue for each DT order. Of course the suggested 2 items at the greeting, then add ons throughout the ordering and then the at least three different suggestive questions at the end and the full read back. Our DT lane is excessively long because we are attached to a gas station. The “car pulling” policies they have are equally ridiculous. You can pull car 1 if car 2’s order is ready. BUT you cannot fill another order period until car 1 is filled and drives away. Doesn’t matter if every other car in line’s orders are ready, you can’t give it to them! They have to sit there and wait until car 1 is filled. Totally idiotic policy. If car 1 ordered 50 wings (which are made to order only) then you are screwed..lol The upper’s fail to realize that though we can do everything within the allotted time, the customer may not. We have lots of customers that take their time on the pad.

    My theory is.. the Speed of Service Standard should never be higher than the longest cook time of any menu items. For us that would be 4:30. No matter how well you plan, there can and will always be excessively large orders that will wipe you out of your holding stock. SOS standards should recognize this. When crew members raises and jobs depend on this standard being met, more practical policy making should be used.

    • Wendy McKing October 13, 2011 at 12:10 am #

      Speed of service tends to be a sore spot with everyone involved, I’ve noticed.

      You will rarely see me directly tell someone, “Violate corporate policy.” I normally suggest it, but not actually directly tell you to do it. In this case, I’m going to say it directly: VIOLATE CORPORATE POLICY. I have never heard anything so stupid as “Don’t fill anymore orders until #1’s order is ready, even if the other orders are ready.” I would open violate that to my boss’s face, and explain to him/her WHY I was violating that policy.

      Customer service comes first, always. And, as I heard Gordon Ramsey say on Kitchen Nightmares to an exasperated cook who was trying to fill orders at a speedier pace then he actually could, “People WILL wait for good food!” Ramsey is absolutely right. Car #1 will wait, if it’s fresh and hot. Which means that there is NO reason you can’t fill the other orders in the meantime.

      People will wait for good food, but not for good food they aren’t going to eat themselves!

  8. deb2000 March 22, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    It seems everybody is getting timed everywhere. If customer service comes first, it seems counterproductive to require employees to adhere to ridiculous speeds like robots and require them to try to sell half the products in the place to each customer at the same time. Let them concentrate on filling my order. I worked in call centers for over 7 years and they have the same requirements. I sacrificed my health trying to go fast enough to meet the requirements. Also I am not keen on requiring employees to do a hundred things at the same. time. I would not like having someone like that girl who can do all those things at once serving me. She may make a mistake on my order while she is texting her friends and getting someone else’s drink at the same time as taking my order. I empathize with the fast food employees and would not do this job myself if I could.

  9. Carlton November 29, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    I been in food service until it wore me down physically and emotionally. I agree that fast food should be quick but not so much as to dog employees. That’s abuse. And I have ptsd and draw disability. Taco Bell tried to coerce me to take an order at the drive through whilst still working with the guest at my window and I’m not able. Fast food can still be fast without hurrying the employee which leads to wrong food, accidents, and overall fatigue whereas letting them work at a moderate pace and being good to them will in the long run make them more productive. And you get happy customers who keep coming back. Managers, please heed my advice and God bless.

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