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Chains renovate to speed service

One risk of a more sophisticated menu is that your food will take longer to prepare and serve. To meet the challenge, new designs are reducing the time customers have to cool their heels or idle their engines.

In the drive-through, which accounts for at least half an average fast-feeder’s business, McDonald’s found customers were bottlenecked in the order lane. Many new stores add a second order lane, which merges into a single lane for payment and pickup. McDonald’s estimates a second drive-through lane can serve an extra 50 cars an hour (upper-left photo).

Another feature, already widespread in Europe, is an ordering kiosk. Instead of waiting at the counter, a customer can place an order and swipe a payment card. Jack in the Box is rolling them out in new stores and some older ones. Says Fay, “It works well in locations with higher traffic and a younger demographic.”

At Jack in the Box, a customer can move straight from kiosk to pickup, bypassing the register in-between.

Fazoli’s is cutting wait times in a different way: by inviting customers to sit and then bringing their orders to them. It’s an amenity that Pitaccio appreciates. “It allows you to sit down longer and appreciate the space you’re in, to have family time.”

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