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Fast-food Drive-thrus Are Getting Slower

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Yoshinoya Holdings, which sells “gyudon”, or stewed beef over rice, has formed a joint-venture with local farmers to grow onions, cabbage and rice for use in outlets across the country. About 160,000 people nearest the plant were ordered to move out and the government established a 20-km compulsory evacuation zone after an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 caused reactor meltdowns and contaminated water, vegetables and air. A voluntary evacuation zone was extended to 30 km and separate areas were evacuated further afield depending on the wind direction. The leaks prompted many consumers to shun products from Fukushima prefecture, which was once well-known for its fruit, mushrooms and vegetables. The crops will be grown in Shirakawa, to the south-west of the plant, the company said. Yoshinoya said it would ensure that the vegetables were safe. “We will employ local people in the factory. We think this will lead to support for reconstruction,” Yoshinoya said in a statement. Japan applies strict food monitoring and says that any products allowed on the market are safe. Despite these assurances, public fears have led to a drop in price for Fukushima produce and huge losses for farmers. The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, is struggling to contain contaminated water at the site 240 km north of Tokyo.

The importance of the drive-thru business to the $299 billion fast-food industry cannot be overstated. Many major chains do 60% to 70% of their business at the drive-thru. That’s even nudged so-called fast-casual chains like Panera to move into the drive-thru arena and increase the number of drive-thrus it opens. The industry issue that’s slowing down service: menu bloat. Fast food’s ongoing market-share battle is forcing big chains to roll out more premium and more complex products more often. “The operational pressures to assemble those items are slowing down the drive-thru,” says Sam Oches, editor of QSR. For example, Taco Bell told QSR that its Cantina Bell bowls sometimes have up to 12 ingredients which are much more complex to assemble than, say, a Doritos Locos Taco. There’s another factor at work, too: accuracy. “The one thing that angers a customer most is to not get the right food,” says Oches. “It’s possible to be too fast.” Consumers get so upset when they find the wrong kind of burger or the wrong toppings in their bags, that many fast-food sellers are either slowing down the process or adding additional order-accuracy checks to assure correct orders. Some chains are “doubling down” on order accuracy, says Oches. “Customers will be patient if you give them hot, accurate orders,” says Oches. Even then, 2013 has not been the industry’s best year in order accuracy, either. Order accuracy for drive-thru meals for the industry was at 87.2% this year vs.

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