A Taco Bell employee saw his own car through the drive-thru window
A Taco Bell employee was stunned to see his own car pulling up to the drive-thru window.
A Taco Bell employee who dropped his car off at the dealership to be serviced was surprised to see it a few hours later when the mechanics who were supposed to be fixing it drove it through his drive-thru.
According to ABC News, last week a Taco Bell employee named Randy Jones dropped his car off at a Nissan dealership to be serviced, then went on to his shift at the restaurant. A few hours later, however, Jones was at the drive-thru when he saw his own Nissan 350Z pull up to the speaker and place an order. Two of the dealership’s mechanics had allegedly taken Jones’ car out for an illicit spin and decided to pick up some tacos on the way, not expecting to run into the car’s owner in the drive-thru.
"I was just livid in my mind, you know, having something like that happen to you," Jones said. "My heart was racing because I'm like I'm not paying them nearly $300 just to drive from Riverside to Moreno Valley in my vehicle."
Jones was furious, and the dealership manager said both mechanics have since been fired for their Taco Bell run. Jones’ vehicle was taken to a different dealership and serviced for free by way of apology.
California rapper shot dead by cops at Taco Bell was sleeping, family says
A California rapper who was shot and killed by police on Saturday was sleeping and not threatening officers with the handgun found on his lap prior to his death, his family said.
Willie McCoy, a local rapper known as Willie Bo, was in a vehicle in a Taco Bell drive-thru in Vallejo when he was killed by police officers responding to the scene about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, KTVU reported. Police went to the location after fast food employees reported seeing a man slumped over in a Mercedes.
As six cops approached the car, McCoy, who they described as “unresponsive,” suddenly began to move. The officers told the driver to keep his hands in a visible area, but McCoy reached for the handgun on his lap, prompting them to fire their weapons.
"In fear for their own safety, the officers discharged their weapons at the driver," police said.
McCoy died at the scene and officers recovered the loaded gun in the Mercedes. Police said Monday the gun McCoy had was reported stolen in Oregon, though it’s unclear how the rapper obtained it.
McCoy’s cousin, David Harrison, told the Los Angeles Times that McCoy was an aspiring rapper and actor. He added McCoy stopped at the Taco Bell to get food following a long day that began at a recording studio.
McCoy's car was removed for the scene for investigation. (KTVU)
Harrison later posted a Facebook video saying his cousin was asleep in the car and slammed the police department for opening fire.
“You can’t just keep killing us in the street like this,” Harrison said in the video, according to the Los Angeles Times. “My cousin was asleep in the car and they shot him … 20… times.”
Vallejo police did not immediately identify the officers involved in the deadly shooting or how many shots were fired. They said the incident is under investigation.
Taco Bell released a statement to KTVU saying they were “shocked and saddened” about the incident.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear that this happened. The owner and operator of this location is working with the local authorities in their investigation and has offered counseling services to all team members present. Our thoughts are with the Vallejo community in this difficult time,” the fast food chain said.
‘WILLIE WAS A GIVER’
McCoy tackled loss from an early age.
His father, Willie Sr., was a janitor at a high school in Sacramento and died of mesothelioma when McCoy was 8. By the time he turned 12, his mother, Volencia Logan, also died of cancer.
McCoy, the second youngest of several half siblings, was temporarily placed in a group home. At school, he was a natural athlete, excelling in football and basketball, but he dropped out of Vallejo High School around his sophomore year, his family said.
McCoy was tall and lean, a replica of his father, whom he called Pops. The elder McCoy had been a strict disciplinarian when it came to his older children, but had eased up on his two youngest sons.
“As a male of color in this world, you need these words of affirmation, especially from your father,” said McCoy’s older nephew, Shawn McCoy, 28. “To endure the weight of the things he did, that would have broken a lot of people.”
McCoy got his GED diploma, but music remained his saving grace, and he yearned for that same success that other big-name rappers from Vallejo, such as E-40 and Mac Dre, achieved. The blue-collar city of about 122,000, which was once home to a bustling naval shipyard before it filed for bankruptcy in 2008, remains one of the most racially diverse in the nation, according to census data, with a roughly even percentage of white, black, Hispanic and Asian residents.
McCoy clung to the mostly black neighborhood of squat homes and dead-end streets known as The Crest. He went by the stage name Willie Bo, and performed with cousins in the group FBG (Forever Black Gods). Their songs permeated with lyrics about money, guns and street violence — familiar themes that often attract attention from local law enforcement.
“What it sounded like is that they needed to conform their lyrics, to look cool,” Welch said. “I saw it more as a cool thing — kids see you on YouTube like you have all this money.”
McCoy did have money that he inherited from his father when he turned 18, and his family said he was selfless. When friends were in trouble with the law, McCoy would bail them out. When a local youth football team needed undergarments and uniforms, McCoy dug deep.
“Willie was a giver,” Shawn McCoy said. “If he ate, you ate.”
While the family stressed that McCoy wasn’t perfect, he was “trying to fix all the little mistakes” through his music, they said.
There was a setback last April, when San Francisco police arrested McCoy for human trafficking and kidnapping after a woman was pulled into a car that he was driving with other people inside. Police also searched a home in Oakland where he was living and said they found numerous firearms.
McCoy was locked up until the district attorney’s office dropped the charges a month after they were filed. His attorney, Tim Pori, said the claims made against him by the woman were “fabricated and blown out of proportion.”
“I liked the kid … and he was telling the truth,” Pori said. Prosecutors “don’t normally dismiss charges like that.”
But McCoy couldn’t just shrug off that experience — instead, he recorded a song.
In the opening sequence for the music video “I’m Fresh Out,” he gets sprung from jail and raps with abandon:
“Made it to the news, so they think I’m dangerous / They tried to send me down, they listened to that lame (expletive) / Said I was guilty, until I proved I’m innocent.”
‘They woke him up with gunfire’
Harrison, McCoy’s cousin, said last month that he didn’t believe a locked door would have kept the officers from safely resolving the situation. He said a window on McCoy’s Mercedes was broken and covered in plastic.
"They woke him up with gunfire," Harrison told the Times.
The body camera footage shows the officers did not shoot until after McCoy was awake, but a Vallejo Police Department webpage dedicated to answering questions and providing updates about the controversial shooting confirms the front passenger side window of McCoy's car was covered by plastic.
"The front passenger side window was covered with plastic material with taping around the frame of the window," a statement on the page says. "The administrative investigation will look into whether the passenger window presented a viable entry option, and if so, whether that option was tactically sound."
Peter Bibring, police practices director of the ACLU of California, said after McCoy's death that police officers must exercise more restraint in their use of deadly force.
"Police officers must use deadly force judiciously, with respect for human rights, with a belief in the sanctity of all human life, and only when absolutely necessary," Bibring said in a statement. "While this seems like a common-sense standard, it isn't the current practice in California. Instead of requiring that officers avoid using deadly force whenever possible, current law allows police officers to use deadly force and take someone's life even when officers have other options.
“This permissive approach continues to result in far too many people -- especially people of color -- ending up dead at the hands of police.”
McCoy’s role, if any, in the Oregon theft of the handgun that police officials said he was carrying when he died is unclear. The police department’s page on the shooting includes information confirming that McCoy was found to have multiple firearms in his Oakland home in April 2018 after he became a suspect in a human trafficking case out of San Francisco.
6. This shitty run:
While getting back into pre-pregnancy shape, I went on a run with my twins in their stroller. I suddenly felt my stomach drop into my asshole. My run turned into a walk. I hovered near a curb while I shat my brains out into my compression shorts. I panicked and called my husband. He slowly drove by me, laughing. Then we realized he couldn’t even help me because the car seats weren't in his car. I had to walk all the way home with my twins, with fresh shit dripping down my legs, and my husband had to hose me off in the yard.
Krispy Kreme Strawberry Doughnuts Return For A Limited Run
Photo courtesy of Krispy Kreme
Fruit-filled doughnuts are a vibe, and once the cravings hit, sometimes all you can think about is when you can get your hands on your next dozen or so.
Krispy Kreme is bringing back their popular Strawberry Glazed Doughnuts and Strawberry Cream Filled Doughnuts.
Strawberry lovers will find themselves enticed by the decadent Krispy Kreme glaze that’s paired with the sweet and tart profiles of the prolific strawberry.
The strawberry doughnuts are available now and will stay on the menu for a limited time at participating Krispy Kreme Doughnut locations.
Tased at Taco Bell: Woman accused of using tire iron to trash store
OKLAHOMA CITY — Employees of an Oklahoma City Taco Bell called police early Tuesday morning to report a woman who was chasing them around the store with what they thought was a crowbar.
They said the woman was threatening them and demanding money, as she allegedly destroyed the cash registers with the weapon, according to KFOR.
Zette Madden, 52, also walked around the building smashing the glass in entrance doors and the drive-thru window as well as the drive-thru menu, causing thousands of dollars in damages, police said.
When Officer Phillip Paz arrived at the Taco Bell, police body cam video captured Madden standing on the other side of the smashed glass.
Paz told Madden seven times to drop the weapon, which he then identified as a tire iron.
A large baseball-sized rock was also seen on the floor next to Madden.
Madden ignored his repeated demands, opened the shattered glass door, then yelled out “I come in here and spend hundreds of dollars, but the (expletive)” – the officer didn’t give her a chance to finish her sentence, writing in his report he used his taser because he feared Madden would again turn back to threaten employees.
After being tased, Madden was cooperative and taken to a local hospital to treat the cuts on her hands from broken glass.
Taco Bell employees have dealt with Madden in the past, saying she trespassed inside the restaurant and allegedly tried to steal soda.
Madden remains in the Oklahoma County Jail on charges of malicious injury and destruction of property, robbery in the first degree and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
10. This drunken disaster:
I drank waaaay too much at a bar and stopped to get McDonald's. I then walked to a friend's house, got into their bathroom, and for some reason I decided to take a bath. I sat in the warm tub with my underwear on while eating McDonald's. I guess I got too comfortable because I fell asleep and woke up two hours later in freezing water, with lettuce, a disintegrated bun, and a hamburger floating around me. That's when I noticed that I also pooped myself. Not my finest moment.
10 Strange And Fascinating Fast Food Tales
Fast food is a relatively recent innovation, only about as old as the automobile, and not really taking off until the 1950s. But in that short time, it has become an ultimately pervasive part of our culture outside the most desolate tribes, it would be difficult to find someone who has not visited a McDonald&rsquos in his life. Fast food has established a mythos all its own below are ten strangest marketing stunts, lawsuits, and scandals to have ever struck our drive thru world.
Burger King is no stranger to weird marketing stunts, such as the dreadful 2004 Coq Roq campaign, wherein faux nu metal rockers with chicken masks on thrashed to music filled with double entendre. Their mascot&mdasha towering, creepy King with unmoving features, was mercifully retired in 2011. But perhaps the worst idea in company history was their 2009 Facebook &ldquoWhopper Sacrifice&rdquo campaign. The premise was simple use the Burger King application to unfriend 10 people on Facebook, and you would get a coupon for a free Whopper. Normally, there is no notification involved in unfriending someone, but in this instance, Burger King would send the friend a message informing them that their friendship was less important to you than a free sandwich. The campaign was promptly dropped, but not before people leapt at the opportunity, abandoning almost 234,000 friends in the process (that&rsquos more than 23,000 Whoppers).
Taco Bell is perhaps best known for its Chihuahua ad campaign, which was often derided as racist. The ads, starring Gidget, were stopped in 2000. Gidget didn&rsquot remain unemployed for long she found several other roles, including a spot in &ldquoLegally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde&rdquo. Taco Bell didn&rsquot fare so well&hellip they&rsquod stolen the Chihuahua idea from two Michigan men, Joseph Shields and Thomas Rinks. The pair pitched the idea to Taco Bell in the 1990s, but were rejected. Shortly thereafter, the restaurant chain&rsquos new ad agency began using the concept. The men took Taco Bell to court, and in 2003, a jury awarded them $30 million. The judge promptly added on $12 million. Shields and Rinks walked away with $42 million for their troubles.
A subsidiary of Yum! Brands (which also owns KFC and Pizza Hut), Taco Bell enjoys considerable popularity worldwide, and has locations selling its Mexican fare in several countries throughout the world. A notable exception: Mexico. They made two attempts to crack the Mexican market, in 1992 and 2007, but both times folded due to lack of patronage.
Wendy&rsquos is best known for its simple commercials starring earnest, plainspoken founder Dave Thomas. Thomas was working as a head cook in a restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when Kentucky Fried Chicken owner Colonel Harland Sanders came calling, selling franchises. Thomas, as well as the family for he worked for, bought in. In doing so, Dave worked closely with the Colonel on marketing ideas. It was Dave Thomas who suggested the idea of buckets of chicken, which help keep the product crisp. He also suggested Sanders appear in his own commercials.
The response was phenomenal, and Dave Thomas was later able to sell his share in the restaurants back to to Sanders for $1.5 million, thus giving him the capital to open Wendy&rsquos. He&rsquod later use this advertising formula to great effect in his own restaurants, appearing in over 800 commercials.
Despite its feel-good American dream origins, Wendy&rsquos is not immune from the bizarre. In 2005, an employee named Steve LeMay and a co-worker were caught robbing the safe from the Manchester, NH store where they worked. The co-worker&rsquos name? Ronald MacDonald.
In a previous list, I detailed the immense popularity of KFC on Christmas Eve in Japan, with lines snaking out the door. While business thrives in America, you aren&rsquot likely to see that kind of rush the next time you stop in for a bucket of chicken. Unless you&rsquod happened by in early May of 2009. None other than Oprah Winfrey advertised on her show that a coupon could be downloaded on her website for a free grilled chicken meal at KFC. According to a KFC press release, they received &ldquounprecedented and overwhelming response&rdquo, which is the politically correct way of saying that the campaign turned into a complete circus. Millions of coupons were printed, the website couldn&rsquot handle the traffic, and hordes of people descended on the restaurants, which quickly ran out of food. By the time KFC axed the program, an astonishing 10.5 million coupons were printed, which were eventually honored with rainchecks.
Whenever the subject of the frivolity of lawsuits comes up, the 1992 McDonald&rsquos coffee case always pops into the conversation. While on its surface, it sounds ridiculous that someone should be able to sue a restaurant for Stella Liebeck burning herself with a beverage that by its very nature is supposed to be hot, there are several less obvious elements at play. First, McDonald&rsquos served its coffee extremely hot&mdashin excess of 180 degrees (your home coffeemaker will generally clock in around 140), and Liebeck suffered horrifying third degree burns right down to the bone. There are pictures available online, but I don&rsquot suggest you look for them unless you have a strong stomach.
Second, Liebeck did not sue McDonald&rsquos hoping to reap a fortune. Initially, the 79 year old only wanted a settlement to cover her medical expenses, which were in excess of $10,000. McDonald&rsquos offered a mere $800.
Liebeck retained an attorney, and much legal wrangling followed. McDonald&rsquos staunchly refused to settle despite multiple attempts to mediate the case before trial. During the court hearing, it came to light that the restaurant had fielded hundreds of complaints about burns from their coffee, and had settled many claims in the past, some for as much as $500,000. This was pretty much the kiss of death for McDonald&rsquos the jury awarded Stella Liebeck $2.86 million. The judge reduced the settlement, and both McDonald&rsquos and Liebeck appealed. Before further legal proceedings occurred, both parties settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Tim Hortons is a Canadian donut chain, with some presence in the United States, and some scattered stores in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Unlike a lot of restaurants, Tim Hortons was named for a real person&mdashprofessional NHL defenseman Miles Gilbert &ldquoTim&rdquo Horton, who played for several teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres. On February 21, 1974, Horton was driving home from a hockey game in Toronto in his De Tomaso Pantera sports car. When police attempted to pull him over, he fled, reaching speeds over 100mph. When rounding a curve, he lost control of the car and hit a concrete culvert. Horton, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed instantly. It was discovered that his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. Horton&rsquos business partner promptly paid his widow $1 million for her shares in the restaurant chain. Today, the company&rsquos revenue exceeds $2.5 billion.
Most would agree that their neighborhood pizzeria serves far better fare than Pizza Hut, whose formulaic, prepackaged recipes do very little to stimulate the palate. But the local joint will only deliver in a five mile radius. Pizza Hut delivered to space. In April of 2001, the company paid the Russian space program approximately a million dollars to take a pizza aboard a rocket sent to resupply the International Space Station orbiting earth. Rolled into the price was a photo op with cosmonaut Yuri Usachov, who offered a thumbs up after receiving his snack. Since it is difficult to taste things in zero gravity, the vacuum sealed salami pie they delivered was heavily spiced.
Rahm Emanuel isn&rsquot exactly a household name, but he has maintained a distinguished career in American politics, serving in multiple advisory positions to Presidents Clinton and Obama, most notably as White House Chief of Staff. He is currently Mayor of Chicago. In high school, Emanuel worked part time at an Arby&rsquos restaurant, a chain known for its roast beef sandwiches. One day, while operating the meat slicer, he severely cut his right middle finger. Being a teenager, he eschewed getting stitches and decided to go for a swim in Lake Michigan. Infection set in, and doctors were forced to amputate the top of his finger.
As an interesting aside, one of Rahm&rsquos brothers is Hollywood superagent Ari Emanuel, the person on whom the character Ari Gold is based on in the show &ldquoEntourage&rdquo.
Mark Cuban is one of the world&rsquos richest men, a dot com billionaire who owns the NBA&rsquos Dallas Mavericks and regularly features on the NBC show &ldquoShark Tank&rdquo, investing in startup businesses. In 2002, the outspoken Cuban lashed out at Ed Rush, the NBA&rsquos head of officiating, claiming that he wouldn&rsquot hire Rush to manage a Dairy Queen. He was fined half a million dollars by the NBA for his big mouth. The popular ice cream chain took offense at Cuban&rsquos insult, inviting him to manage a Dairy Queen for a day if he thought it was so easy. He accepted, good naturedly serving cones and signing autographs at a store in Coppell, Texas. The event was a media circus, with lines over an hour long. Cuban had considerable trouble mastering the swirl of a soft serve cone, telling customers &ldquoBe patient with me, please. I&rsquom new at this. It might not be pretty, but it works.&rdquo
Subway is the world&rsquos largest restaurant chain&mdashas of this writing, there are 39,517 Subways operating around the globe, in 102 countries and territories. The most exclusive location? Inside 1 World Trade Center. The restaurant sits inside a trailer-like &ldquopod&rdquo that is lifted up level by level as the construction of the skyscraper progresses, from the ground all the way up to the planned 105th floor. The restaurant was opened to cater to union workers, who only have half hour lunch breaks, and thus couldn&rsquot leave the premises for food, since leaving required waiting for a hoist to bring them back to ground level.
The Drive-Thru Performance Study
A lot has been said about the dramatic transformation the limited-service restaurant industry has experienced in the last five to 10 years. Observers have noted a range of factors that have shoved along the change, from the pressures to offer healthier food to younger generations’ desire for more creative menu opportunities.
But there’s a bigger reason for all of this change, an explanation for why innovation and development in the limited-service space has entered overdrive: competition. The sheer number of brands crowding into every niche imaginable in quick service has forced players to become better, faster, stronger, more convenient. And that pressure to perform at a higher level has had broad implications on the drive-thru operation, where companies have tinkered with various components in an effort to create an outdoor lane that facilitates a top-shelf brand experience.
QSR has monitored the changing drive thru for the last 16 years, measuring the industry’s evolution in metrics such as speed and accuracy. A few things have become clear over the last few years. For one, it was obvious that speed and accuracy were going in different directions, the former plateauing, even slowing down, as menu items became more complex, the latter improving as brands stressed operational efficiencies. Secondly, as the data conformed to more rigorous standards at each of the benchmark brands, the story about the drive-thru operation’s present and future became less interesting the data, less practical.
This year, we approached the Drive-Thru Study considering how the data and the story might be most resourceful for the quick-service industry. To that end, we researched 23 of the top drive-thru brands, and, rather than analyze the data based on individual chains, we took a look at the numbers through two separate lenses that are increasingly shading the industry conversation. One is individual dayparts, reflecting operators’ push toward more business during nontradtional meal times the other is menu segment and the crowding field that most major brands find themselves playing in. It’s all in an effort to better set a precedent for what really matters in your business: how to beat the competition.
“Instead of a chain-by-chain analysis, we thought it would be interesting to examine how service during different dayparts might look,” says Brian Baker, who has headed the Drive-Thru Study since its inception. “We also segmented chains based on menu so we can explore differences based on what you might be craving any particular day. Although some of the results were expected, there were a few surprises along the way, too.”
Traditionally, speed, accuracy, and a friendly, pleasant experience have always been top concerns for quick-service operators as they evaluate the success of their drive thru. But each has gone its separate way in the last several years as the brands have tailored their drive thrus to evolving consumer demands.
For its part, speed used to be a badge of honor for many chains. Faster service means happier customers and more cars through the line, both of which can boost perception and sales. Last year, though, the narrative on speed of service in the drive thru took a big U-turn. The overall average speed of service across the benchmark group slowed down about eight seconds over the previous year, to 180.83 seconds, and operators said menu complexities and the push toward premium items were responsible.
The slow-down trend appears to have continued this year. While it’s impossible to compare this year’s speed-of-service data directly to last year’s, the numbers this year were still telling: overall speed of service across the 23 brands studied was 203.29 seconds. And once again, brand representatives say, premium menu items are to blame.
“I think what’s changed … is consumer needs are changing rapidly. It’s not really that we’re changing the service it’s how we accustom our mindsets to say that not everything is going to be a Doritos Locos Taco that you deliver in the restaurant,” says Mike Grams, chief operating officer of Taco Bell. “There are going to be more complex products coming in, and we just have to change our training methods, our engagement plans in the restaurant, and how we approach them so that we can execute and still be relatively at a good speed that customers are going to be comfortable with.”
Taco Bell witnessed this shift firsthand in 2012 when it added its Cantina Bell menu, a line of premium burritos and bowls that include as many as 10 ingredients. Other quick-service concepts are similarly marching into new territory as customers demand better, healthier, and more adventurous food options. With competition so intense, burger, sandwich, and chicken concepts are looking for ways to either grow beyond or build on top of burgers, sandwiches, and chicken, whether it’s through customizable menu options, updated recipes, or unusual ingredients. This could help explain the long average service times for each segment burger concepts clocked in at 203.75 seconds with an average of 1.79 cars in the drive thru, bone-in chicken chains experienced 215.85-second service times with just one car on average in the lane, and sandwich brands brought up the rear with a 239.88-second mark and 2.2 cars in the stack (for comparison, the fastest brand in last year’s study, Wendy’s, enjoyed a 133.63-second speed-of-service time with an average of 1.78 vehicles in the line).
Perhaps more noteworthy, though, are the differences in speed-of-service times among the dayparts. Speed of service during the breakfast and snack dayparts, for example, is much faster compared with lunch, dinner, and late night, and the two dayparts are very similar in both time through the line and number of vehicles rolling through. Breakfast enjoyed an average speed of service of 174.88 seconds with 1.94 cars in the line, while the mid-afternoon snack came in at 173.39 seconds and 1.98 cars present.
“The piece that surprised me more than anything was the mid-afternoon snack,” Baker says. “It’s equally busy to the other dayparts and they’re just killing it on time. You would expect for lunch and breakfast, you would have your No. 1 best employees in place, shoes shined, ready to roll, and in the middle of the afternoon you relax and catch your breath. But I look at this and say, it’s just as busy in the middle of the day as it is for dinner or lunch or breakfast, and they are even faster.”
The busyness and efficiency of the snack daypart reflect a growing trend across the limited-service restaurant industry in which more customers are making purchases outside of the three traditional meal times, either for dieting purposes or as a way to fuel slow times in their workday. It’s a trend that has forced operators to retool their systems to accommodate new traffic patterns and customer demands.
“As you look at happy hour in our business, which is really growing our afternoon daypart, we’ve had to staff up and create new opportunities for employees in the afternoon that maybe weren’t there, that were a downtime in the past,” Grams says. “With breakfast, obviously, the expansion of hours there has created new jobs in the morning. We’ve done a tremendous job over the years of having a very strong late-night business. So now we’re really trying to take advantage of that 24-hour footprint to make sure we take advantage of dayparts where we can grow.”
Taco Bell added a national breakfast menu in March, making waves with items like the Waffle Taco and the A.M. Crunchwrap. The move launched a national conversation on the morning meal, leading to increased attention from quick-service brands on their breakfast offerings. The drive thru perhaps stands to bear the brunt of breakfast’s newfound popularity, as purchases are often made in the middle of the morning commute to work.
Kenneth Avery is chief operating officer at Bojangles’, a brand that was built on the backs of biscuits and other Southern breakfast staples, and that sees about 40 percent of its business visit during the morning hours. He says breakfast is a sacred time, one that requires the brand to be on its best behavior.
“Breakfast is one of those habits where you go to the same place four or five times each week because you’re either on your way to work or you’ve got your morning routine, and you go to some place you can count on or rely on,” Avery says. “So at breakfast, I think our methodology is … about us delivering that quality in a way that does not interfere with what their plans are, either slowing them down or giving them reason to not be happy with us. Once you move to lunch or dinner, it really becomes much different.”
Dinner experienced the slowest drive-thru time, an average of 225.59 seconds, among the dayparts. Baker says this is likely because dinner meals are often more complex than the other dayparts—say, a bucket of chicken or sandwiches for the whole family.
“What makes dinner even more of a sore spot, is if you look at the average number of vehicles in line, it’s also the slower period,” he says, noting the daypart’s average of 1.19 cars in the line. “But if the orders are more complex and larger, the number of vehicles in line doesn’t really reflect what they’re dealing with internally.”
John Cappasola, chief brand officer for Del Taco, confirms Baker’s suspicions, noting that customers experience the brand in different ways during different dayparts.
“The biggest difference really lies in the size and complexity of the orders,” he says. “I’d say a typical drive-thru order at lunch is one or two of our popular meal options, with fries and drinks, sometimes dessert. At dinner, the orders are definitely larger, most likely feeding the family or a group of friends—lots of food, lots of variety. Effectively preparing for each of our peak dayparts has been a particular focus area for us over the past year.”
Various strategies have been employed by quick-service brands to improve drive-thru speed of service, and the Study’s data show these strategies are inconsistent in their benefits. For example, pre-sell menuboards that are typically employed to streamline the customer order don’t always make speed of service faster only one menu category and two dayparts showed faster times when a pre-sell board was present. Meanwhile, brands that have employed three customer touch points instead of two—something that seemed less likely in the last few years as operators focused on smaller, cheaper real estate—have reason to believe they are on the right track, as average speed-of-service times are faster when three stations are in operation (195.71 seconds) than two (204.53 seconds).
Marcia Keaney, U.S. operations manager for McDonald’s, says in an email that the brand views more customer touch points in the drive thru as a way to limit the number of possible mistakes. “Our focus is on efficiency, so, if we take down the order accurately and deliver a quality product, the line keeps moving,” she says. “It’s about going slow to go fast.”
Like many other quick-service concepts, Bojangles’ has used line busters—employees stationed outside with a mobile order-taker—to relieve some of the pressure in the drive-thru lane. But Avery says that approach is not one that the brand plans to pursue in a big way moving into the future.
“Where we can, all new stores will have two windows. … We have found that it becomes more difficult to put somebody outside,” Avery says. “Believe it or not, customers give you credit for trying to do the right thing and get you through faster, but . at least from the feedback we’ve received from customers, they don’t want you to put employees out there.” He adds that the oppressive heat in the Southeast, Bojangles’ core market, is a deterrent to the line-buster strategy, and that customers have expressed concern over employees being asked to sweat out the rush hours outside.
If speed of service has taken a back seat in the drive-thru experience, accuracy is at the steering wheel. All operators interviewed for this story claim accuracy to be the most important component of the drive-thru experience, a piece that can sully an otherwise perfect drive-thru order. And while these operators say the complexities of premium menu items are also putting pressures on order accuracy, the numbers show that execution is firing on all cylinders 87.2 percent of the orders from the daypart brands and 86.6 percent of those for the menu-category audits were accurate.
There’s no magic bullet for making sure an order is accurate in the drive-thru lane. Some brands use an order confirmation board (OCB), but the data suggests it’s not yet a widespread strategy while 90.1 percent of burger joints employed an OCB, only 22.1 percent of chicken chains and 10.6 percent of sandwich concepts did the same.
For some companies, keeping a constant flow of communication between the employee and the customer is what helps protect the accuracy of the orders.
“We do individually tell them what we’re handing them, versus just handing them a lot of bags, because the accuracy factor when they drive off is a lot more important than what the five-second pre-sell might have gained,” says Kay Bogeajis, chief operating officer for El Pollo Loco.
But communication isn’t just helping improve accuracy in the drive thru. It’s also helping quick-service operators enhance the overall drive-thru experience, which they say is just as important as speed of service and accuracy.
“If we do know that we’ve taken too long because maybe a car took longer than our average, then we tell the next car why,” Bogeajis says. “I think people just want to know that we’re aware of them as a customer. So the communication piece, for us, has improved our overall scores in terms of how people feel about us.”
In the last few years of the Drive-Thru Performance Study, customer service has been one of the glaring sore spots for several chains, an obvious opportunity for brands to focus their efforts in improving the drive thru. This year, data shows that this remains the case, especially for certain menu categories and dayparts. Whereas the first four dayparts offered very friendly service around 30 percent of the time, the late-night daypart fell far behind at 12.3 percent. And while burger and chicken joints provided very friendly service around 20 percent of the time, sandwich concepts ran away with top service marks, nearly 40 percent of surveyed units being very friendly.
“One component that we focus a great deal of time on is making sure that every one of our team members is trained, trusted, and empowered to deliver the Arby’s experience,” says Rick Gestring, vice president of operations at sandwich chain Arby’s. “It can’t just be a quick exchange or a transaction it has to be an uplifting experience as well. So we spend a great deal of time training and helping to guide our folks to bring to life the brand purpose in the drive-thru experience. It may be as quick as just a quick smile, a ‘drive safe,’ a ‘hope you’re having a good day,’ an opportunity to deliver upon the brand purpose in the drive thru.”
Taco Bell’s Grams says great customer service in the drive thru begins with employees who are comfortable with the menu and system. He points to the breakfast rollout earlier this year as an example of a major brand initiative that could have ruined the customer experience if executed hastily. The company used a strategic approach to the rollout that was similar to its other new product launches: It kept the initial breakfast menu small so it wouldn’t be overwhelming, gave stores several weeks’ notice before the menu’s debut, and issued a playbook that offered a blow-by-blow look at how to execute the menu.
“That playbook was really about creating routine so that the habits and behaviors were formed inside the restaurants before launch, so people felt comfortable,” Grams says. “It didn’t feel new when we opened the doors at 6 o’clock in the morning and started serving breakfast. They were comfortable there was a lot of practice to give people time before we actually started selling to get them comfortable.”
Where do fast-food operators go from here? To the layman, a drive thru is a simple operation, one void of several consumer touch points and innovations that might be possible in the dining room. But if you believe operators interviewed for this story, the quick-service restaurant industry is on the precipice of a whole new way to approach the drive-thru operation. Mobile ordering, they say, will change speed, accuracy, customer service—everything.
Just look at Dunkin’ Donuts, which rolled out a mobile-ordering app in 2012 that has already showed marked improvements in the drive thru.
“By launching the Dunkin’ App and offering mobile payments, we created an entirely new level of speed and convenience that will further distinguish our brand to current and new customers throughout the country,” says Michelle King, spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Donuts, in an email.
Grams says Taco Bell is exploring ways to leverage mobile’s popularity, and hints that a mobile solution could be making its debut in the near future.
“What we learned long ago was that the biggest pain point in the drive-thru experience is actually placing the order,” he says. “The stress of finding it on the menuboard or remembering what your friend told you that they wanted from Taco Bell is a huge piece to the consumer that we can relieve with mobile ordering. So our ability to get that out to market and have consumers go through our drive thru, place their order in advance, and simply roll through and pick it up is pretty cool. … Mobile will change drive thru. No doubt.”
To get a better read on how the drive-thru competition stacks up in individual dayparts and menu categories, we expanded the study this year to 23 brands. Note that the brands audited for the menu categories were researched during the lunch and dinner dayparts.
BURGER: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.
CHICKEN: KFC, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Church’s Chicken, Bojangles’, El Pollo Loco
SANDWICH: Subway, Panera Bread, Arby’s, Chick-fil-A, Jimmy John’s, Steak Escape, Schlotzsky’s Deli
BREAKFAST: Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Bojangles’, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr., Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Hortons, Krystal
AFTERNOON SNACK: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell
LATE NIGHT: Taco Bell, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Del Taco, Jack in the Box
Data for the 2014 QSR Drive-Thru Performance Study was collected and tabulated by Insula Research, a Mystery Researchers company. The Study included 23 different chains and included data from 2,188 different visits at 1,606 different restaurants. In all cases where the same restaurant was visited more than once, it was done so during different dayparts. All data was collected during the months of June, July, and August 2014.
For the 2014 Study, a new format was introduced. Restaurants were segmented by menu burger (McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Hardee’s, and Carl’s Jr), chicken on the bone (KFC, Popeyes, Church’s Chicken, Bojangles’, and El Pollo Loco), and sandwich (Chick-fil-A, Arby’s, Schlotzsky’s Deli, Subway, Panera Bread, Steak Escape, and Jimmy John’s). Additional chains (to those listed above) were also included for a daypart analysis, which examines differences based on time of day of the visit—breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, and late night. Sample sizes for each segment included at least 300 different visits.
Upon each visit a trained data collection specialist surveyed the drive-thru lane and then entered the line as any other customer. Each order placed by our researchers consisted of one main item, one side item, and one beverage. A minor special request was also made with each order, such as beverage with no ice. Although two different speed-of-service times were recorded for each visit (one for the researchers’ order/experience and another from a randomly selected vehicle), all tables within this feature are related to the researchers’ own vehicle and experience only, as this was the controlled order. Additional data collected by each researcher included but was not limited to: order accuracy, drive thru and exterior appearance, speaker clarity, and customer service.