Photo Courtesy of Flickr
Story by Savanna Hazlewood / Staff Writer
According to New York University, college students eat at fast-food restaurants on average one to three times per week, and judging by those statistics, we’re pretty good at consuming food from fast-food chains. But how good are we at actually ordering it?
According to a 2014 USA Today article, the amount of time customers are spending waiting in drive-thru lines is increasing, right along with the demand for accurate orders and fast service. But who is to blame: the fast-food employees or the customers themselves? A few MTSU students who have worked in fast-food drive-thrus shared some insight and six simple tips for customers to make their visits better.
1. Speak loud and clear, but do not yell.
Sydney Danielle, a junior Global Studies major, worked at Dairy Queen for three years and shared a few things customers did frequently that made her job difficult.
“Some people would mumble, leave loud vehicles running, ignore any questions that were asked, then get upset that we didn’t have everything they wanted,” Danielle said. “People would be agitated that they had to wait or that we couldn’t hear them on the speaker. This made my job a lot worse, because I was the one they would yell at if there was a problem. After a while, I dreaded going to work.”
She suggested being patient and understanding when ordering, speaking loudly and clearly into the speaker but not yelling, turning down music and turning off noisy vehicles. If the employee can’t hear or understand you, it’s unlikely that you’ll end up with what exactly you asked for.
2. Have your order (or at least an idea of it) ready when you arrive.
Drive-thru employees are timed from the moment customers arrive at the speaker until they receive their food and drive away. Not only are their personal performances judged on how low that drive-thru time is, but so is the performance of that store as a whole.
Ariana Granderson, an undeclared junior, worked at Zaxby’s for nine months and noted the importance of the drive-thru time and some of the ways customers can negatively affect it.
“We have to keep it under a certain time, and it slows it down when you spend three minutes staring at the menu,” Granderson said. “If you have to make a lengthy decision about what to eat, pull up the menu on your phone beforehand.”
Holding up the line by taking too long to order inconveniences customers in line behind you, too. Have an idea of what you want ahead of time or just head inside where employees aren’t being hassled about getting you in and out as quickly as possible.
3. Have your form of payment ready at the window.
Keeping the line moving doesn’t end with you placing your order. Whether you’re paying with a credit card, cash or using an app to pay, it’s helpful to have it ready to hand over to the employee at the drive-thru window.
Said Granderson: “I don’t have time to awkwardly watch you pull $3 out of your shirt, a quarter from your wallet and scrape three pennies from in between the seats and still be eight cents short.”
4. Listen to the employee taking your order.
Simone Breanne, a junior studying Education, worked at Five Guys for nearly four years and had to run through lists of possible toppings in her head when customers didn’t listen to her questions. She explained how frustrating it was when she asked customers what toppings they’d like on their burger and they began listing ones they didn’t want.
“If people start telling you what they don’t want on the burger, you have to tweak your brain to hunt down the items that they aren’t saying. For example, ‘no tomato or onion’ would mean they want ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickle, lettuce, relish, grilled onions and mushrooms. But maybe they did want grilled onions, just not raw ones.”
Respond to employees when they greet you, even if you’ll need a moment to decide what to order (see No. 2). Be sure to pay attention to the questions you’re being asked so that when you receive your food, it’s exactly the way you wanted it.
5. If you’ve never been to the restaurant before, go inside instead.
Despite most fast-food menus’ simplicity, an unfamiliar one with can be daunting, and it can take some time to decide which burger or milkshake will satisfy your fast-food fix. If this is the case, it’s best to skip the drive-thru line and go inside instead.
“If you haven’t been there before, just go inside. You’ll hold up the whole line,” Breanne said. “The same goes if your order is really long or complicated.”
6. Follow the golden rule.
Everyone wants to be treated with respect, and fast-food employees are no exception. They spend long hours taking orders and preparing meals, all under the pressure of making the experience as easy and fast as possible for the customer.
Junior Bee Milam currently works at McDonald’s when she isn’t pursuing her degree in Child Development and Family Studies. Since beginning her job in August, Milam has experienced customers both good and bad, and shared her No. 1 piece of advice for drive-thru customers:
“If you are nice and pleasant with the person that is taking your order, you will get that back in return. Just treat people the way you would want to be treated,” she said.
Savanna Hazlewood is a junior studying Newspaper and Magazine Journalism and Paralegal Studies at Middle Tennessee State University. Follow her on Twitter at @SavHaz.