Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Drive-thru rules

From today's Your Table, Todd South took a look at how to handle a drive-thru slower than Christmas:

My mom was mad.

It was late, we were hungry and she didn’t have time to cook. So we'd gone to Long John Silver’s, which I kind of liked. It wasn’t great, but definitely different from the hamburger/sandwich fare I usually got at fast food joints.

We used the drive thru.

She’d ordered three meals, one for her, one for me and one to take to my dad. She waited. And waited.

She stared at the cashier's window for what seemed like forever, but more likely about 15 minutes — far too long to wait for cheap fried fish and tartar sauce.

She honked the horn and said some things I can’t repeat here. Then my mom did something I’d never seen by age 10.

She drove away.

For the next few blocks I looked for police cars to chase us down. But they didn’t and I learned a lesson about fast food — you don’t have to put up with poor service.

Most people think all the power is in the hands of the fast food employee. You’re hungry, they have food. The thought “must eat food” runs in a constant loop in your head. But you’re still the customer, and while the customer isn’t always right, the customer does have the money.

In a completely unscientific survey I got two votes for Arby’s, one vote each for Taco Bell and Wendy’s (all on Quintard Avenue). And another vote for the McDonald’s in Golden Springs.
On the opposite side, I’ve gotten glowing marks for the speed of the Arby’s and McDonald’s on McClellan Boulevard.

My calculations show no discernable pattern. There were equal complaints about joints with easy-to-make taco snacks, assembly-line hamburgers and slightly more complex sandwich offerings.

So I think it comes down to management. I have seen the manager for the Arby’s on McClellan Boulevard run the show and I am impressed. She keeps the place humming with the keen eye of a Marine Corps drill instructor.

That is, if drill instructors smiled.

But this goes back to my original point, if you’re in line at the drive thru and you haven’t paid yet, and it’s not lunch rush on a weekday and it’s taking 10 to 15 minutes. Leave. But by all means, don’t give the person on the other end of the microphone a hard time.

Another thing I learned about some fast food places when I was a teenager and had friends who worked the grill — don’t upset the cooks. Think about it: they’re in an unmonitored room with your food. Use your imagination.

So be polite, but don’t put up with poor service.

It’s kind of like what my mom told me recently about fast food: “I don't expect it to be good or good for me, but I do expect it to be fast.”