Fast food drive-thru goes long-distance

So you’re in the drive-thru line at McDonald’s and you order a Big Mac, fries, and a vanilla shake. Who takes your order? Someone inside the restaurant, right? Not necessarily.

An experiment in California is testing the efficacy of fast-food call centers. In other words, your order at your hometown drive-thru was processed by someone in the Golden State. Employees go to work in Santa Maria and take orders from around the country, transmitting the order info to the proper restaurant so the operation is seamless. A recent interview of customers revealed that no one suspected that anything untraditional was in the drive-thru mix.

This Santa Maria experiment is one of the first of its kind. It began six months ago with 15 employees and today has 125. Each of these people takes up to 95 orders an hour during the busiest times of the day.

Some 50 other call centers have been set up across the U.S., with varying numbers of employee. All are designed to provide expert customer service and, coincidentally enough, encourage customers to buy more.

VoIP is driving this drive-thru revolution. All of the calls come in over the Internet, and orders are processed using Web connections as well. McDonald’s claims that it is being done to cut labor costs and has been joined by the owners of fast-food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.

So the next time you answer the question “You want fries with that?” remember to ask in return “Where are you?”.


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