Thursday 28 Sep 2023

Fast food is on a mission to get faster

| MARCH 28, 2023, 08:14 PM IST
Fast food is on a mission to get faster

The fast-food industry seems to be on a mission to defy the laws of time by stepping up the pace of food service even more. In the United States, McDonald’s is now using geolocation to help get orders ready for when a customer arrives in-store.

While White Castle is considered to be the oldest fast-food chain in the United States, selling its famous small square-shaped burgers since 1921, the McDonald’s brothers are often credited with bringing the concept of a restaurant with fast food service to the masses. In 1940, Richard and Maurice McDonald opened their first drive-in restaurant in California to sell their burgers. A few years later, the duo set up the “Speedee Service System," a business model that provided very fast service to customers, laying the foundations for a whole category of restaurants whose premise is based above all on facilitating the idea of eating on the go.

More than eight decades later, fast food still counts time as a parameter closely tied to its business model. In a quest for productivity, fast-food restaurants are still chasing time savings and integrating speed into their way of working. To further this objective, McDonald’s has decided to start geolocating its customers so that orders can be prepared while they are on their way to the restaurant. This is currently only available to customers (in Chicago, for now) who order their Big Mac via the app, according to the trade website Restaurant Business, which has reported on the launch of this innovative system.

Specifically, the restaurant team is notified when the customer is three minutes away. Thanks to this advance warning, the team get to work preparing the order. Meanwhile, customers shouldn’t have to wait too long to get their food, and this should still be hot upon their arrival. This promise of speed (and efficiency) is a way for the chain to encourage more customers to use its digital service. According to Restaurant Business, it’s also a way to relieve congestion of the drive-through during peak hours.

By aiming to get faster, fast-food restaurants are eliminating the thing that annoys customers most: the wait. And there is no shortage of ideas when it comes to catering to the impatient. Late last year, McDonald’s unveiled another concept to serve fries that are still warm when they arrive in customers’ hands. In Fort Worth, Texas, what the company has dubbed its restaurant of the future features a conveyor belt that delivers packed orders to customers as soon as they arrive. This trial is already using geolocation to warn the kitchen team of a customer’s impending arrival.

McDonald’s isn’t the only business trying to serve its customers quicker. The US-based fast-food chain Taco Bell has tested a drive-through concept based on a dumbwaiter, a kind of vertical elevator in which orders are sent to customers. Last summer, the fast-food chain stated its aim to reduce waiting times at the drive-through, promising to serve customers in just two minutes!

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