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fast-food speed-pass

pre-empt the line to order common fast-food items
  (+8, -1)
(+8, -1)
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against]

Anyone who eats fast food is foiling the revolution by suporting the capitalist running-dog economy of oppression. However ... chili! Fries! At ye olde fast foode franchise across from campus for me (which is a Wendy's but might as well be one of the competitors), most of my time there is spent waiting *to order.* Waiting on food to be prepared is OK (at least, it's more understandable), but the infinite and shifting line to place my there is straight out of Kafka. At this particular one, unrepresentative of other Wendy's locations I've been to, I frequently get to the front after 20 minutes of waiting only to find that they're out of chili, or that "it's not ready yet." Not like hey have a breakfast menu to prevent them making Chili for opening time ...

What I propose: ID-card sized printable bar-codes which can be scanned on *entering* the line. I'd put the codes for the few things I'm likely to order in my wallet. Then, on entering the cattle corral leading to the couter, I'd flash them by a reader, which would a) verify the order scanned visually ("YOU HAVE ORDERED A CHILI AND A BAKED POTATO WITH SOUR CREAM AND CHIVES. IS THIS CORRECT?" Yes, that's correct/No, correct order/Cancel entire order") and b) extract some soul-destroying, apocalyptically anti-privacy and anti-tomfoolery verification, like a thumbprint or a medium-res photo, so pranksters have a disincentive to order 69 hamburgers and dash out the door before paying.

[Inspired by the (very smart) *beginning* of line ordering system at the Wendy's location inside the Texas Union at Univ. of Texas, though I don't know if that still exists. That way, you're waiting in line only to pay, because your food is being cooked as you waddle toward it. ]

yhtomit, Jan 28 2006

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       Theoretically, your food is cooked well before you're waddling toward it. When I worked at Wendy's back in the dark ages of the mid-1980's, we were expected to have an order prepared within 15 seconds of it being ordered in the dining room (not "for here" they'd tell us) and 30 seconds (I think) at the pick-up window (not "drive through", they'd tell us).   

       Truly, when things are working smoothly during a rush, the ordering customers themselves are the bottleneck. You'd be amazed how many people stood in line for 10 minutes without having formed even an inkling of what they wanted to order.   

       During busy times, pre-ordering (we did it with pencil and order pad) can drastically smooth things out so I can vouch for the concept of this idea.   

       How does this differ from the system already in place? Do you see any attributes of your idea as being superior to that existing system?
half, Jan 28 2006
  

       I assert this varies from the "system" in place at my usual (Philadelphia) Wendy's location, because in no way is an order there prepared in 15 (or 30, or 60, or 90) seconds on any day I've been there ;)   

       I'd be perfectly satisfied with pencil-based in-line ordering, but it just doesn't happen either there or in practically any of the various quick-grease restaurants I have used to harden my arteries, with the exception of the Texas Union Wendy's I mentioned. I resent waiting in line for upwards of 20 minutes to be told the (simple, common, popular) thing I want -- chili -- is out of stock. No apology or anything, just a blank robotic declaration. By that point, it's often too late to get equivalent food elsewhere and still get to class on time.   

       Sadly, I can't be surprised by the "no inkling" folks, because my dad is their patron saint and secret underground leader. I think there are rituals and ceremonies in which the undecided voters of the fast food world get together to hem and haw ritualistically at each other, and inquire about menu items that are listed there right on the menu, and to ask detailed questions about ingredients, method of preparation, caloric content, etc. Those things are fine when it's not lunch rush hour, but emphatically not when it is.
yhtomit, Jan 28 2006
  

       (You mentioned that there was a system at the Univ. of Texas store, but you didn't really say how it worked. That's what I meant to ask you to compare your system to.)
half, Jan 28 2006
  

       Ah! Right, now I see. The UT system went like this: on entering the cattle queue, you encountered an employee working at a little computer workstation (simpler / smaller than a checkout register, but with the same order-placing capabilities) and placed your order. By the time the payment queue of which you are now a part slips forward and you are at the cash registers, your food is generally just coming out to meet you, so it's PAY / GRAB / CONSUME. Mine would vary in that barcodes printed out and swiped past a stationary reader don't need an employee in attendance. Also, promo deals could be done where temporary barcodes are also coupons. There's a slight hassle factor (how many people will / would / want to go through extra complicated steps to do a task that is supposed by definition to be simple?), but IMO could be well worth it. No more complicated than the many "print out this coupon" offers in the world.
yhtomit, Jan 28 2006
  

       Many drive-ups have a system like that already. Why they don't do something like that inside I don't know.   

       My university has a ZIP card that can be used to charge food purchases on campus, and I just saw an advertisement for a drive-up that takes credit cards.   

       I think the fast-food places ought to make a card-reader that remembers what you ordered the last time, and places that as your order unless you pick another option.   

       Some sort of fast-food express lane should be possible. I don't do fast food very often, because it is seldom fast and seldom food.
baconbrain, Jan 30 2006
  

       There's nothing linke waiting in line at (eg) an airport only to find the first task is to fill out a form. Smarter line controllers had out forms, clipboards and pens to those waiting in line.   

       Really smart airlines hand out the arrival forms on the flight -- why not fill out your entry visa form while not watching the in-flight movie?
not_only_but_also, Jan 30 2006
  

       This is very similar to an idea that I have about the drive-thru window. One thing that annoys me about the drive-thru is that you have people in front of you who want "special" orders. The driver will have an order for 10 people and every burger has some sort of special request. Imagine the following scenario:   

       "Hi, may I take your order?" "Yes, I would like a #1 combo with no onions, a #3 with diet iced tea with no ice, two #2 combos with no salt on the fries, etc..."   

       By the time they get to the window, the order is wrong and now you see the driver handing the bag back and forth between the cashier. While all of this drama is going on, I am slowly getting steamed because all I wanted was a simple burger with fries. Special order people ought to order inside the resturant or at least there should be priorty given to those who know exactly what they want and its a very simple request.
Jscotty, Jan 30 2006
  

       You'd rather I just drive by the outside windows for entertainment?   

       Thank you for choosing Fudgepackers ... would you like to try a combo today?
"I'll be right up"
Wait in line, and just drive out and wave at the attendant.
  

       Hey. If it doesn't really hold you up and you're giving me a good laugh, where's the harm?
reensure, Jan 31 2006
  

       Why dont we just put almost all the spotty teenagers out of work. You know the slide where the 'chefs' place the cooked burgers and are picked up by the serving staff at the other end? Well why not have that go straight to the public. You pick up what you want and bring it to the till. Pour your own beverage etc. Cut out all the middle men/women.
etherman, Jan 31 2006
  
      
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