McDonald's testing new ordering system

Monday, December 8, 2003

The next time you're in the drive-through of the McDonald's on Broadway saying you want that super-sized, you're not talking to anyone in the building.

In fact, you're not talking to anyone in the state. You're talking to someone in Colorado.

Huh?

The McDonald's on Broadway and the one off Interstate 55 in Cape Girardeau are test sites for sending orders in the drive-through to an off-site call center in Colorado that handles orders.

"We're testing that right now," said Shannon Davis, owner of the Broadway McDonald's.

According to published reports, the system works like this: You drive up and talk to the machine, which routes your order to the center via a phone call.

The workers in Colorado take the orders and send them back to the store, quicker and more accurately than an in-store worker who has to handle filling the orders and making change.

The workers simply punch the orders in on a touch-screen, and the orders appear on an overhead computer in the restaurant kitchen. Some say that it can be done this way at double the speed.

It's an approach that is being tested here that some believe will revolutionize the fast-food giant's business model, speed up service and improve accuracy.

I've heard both sides from people in town who have been through. One told me it was hard to hear and that his order was wrong. Another raved about it and said that her order was finally right.

Time will tell, but it sure sounds like an interesting test.

Speaking of McDonald's, KFVS-TV general manager Mike Smythe spent 4 1/2 hours working at the Cape Girardeau Broadway McDonald's last week. He did it for his opinion piece that appears on channel 12.

The reason for his visit, he said, was because he was offended by Merriam-Webster's recent Collegiate dictionary, which added the word "McJob," saying it was a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides almost no opportunity for advancement.

"Think about how many millions of people worked at McDonald's over the year," he said. "They teach cleanliness, customer service and speed. I was amazed about how hard they work. It's a factory, and it never stops. The dictionary people were wrong. They're beating people up who work hard for a living."

KFC sold: Kevin Harris, whose family has owned the KFCs in the area for going on four decades, told me last week that the KFCs have been sold to A&A Foods out of California.

The deal for the five KFCs closed two weeks ago, and A&A took over a week ago. The family owned the restaurants in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Dexter, Sikeston and Charleston. A&A owns 12 other KFCs in Southern California.

The restaurants were run for years by owner Lloyd Harris, who died in July. But Kevin Harris said his father expressed interest in selling the restaurants before he died.

The Cape Girardeau KFC -- then Kentucky Fried Chicken -- opened here in 1965.

Harris said part of the reason he wanted to sell was several -- what he called unreasonable -- new demands by the company. He said if the franchise gets its way with the new owners, expect several changes in the coming years.

Realty Executives to open: A new Realty Executives office is opening at 1359 N. Mount Auburn Road in Cape Girardeau, the first Realty Executives office in the area, according to Bill and Susan Cole, owner and broker. Terri Penrod has been appointed as an assisting managing broker for the new office.

Susan Cole has been a real estate agent since 1981 as a saleswoman, manager and broker/ owner. She is a graduate of Southeast Missouri State University and a Cape Girardeau native. Terri Penrod has been a real estate agent since 1995 as a saleswoman and has the Graduate Realtor Institute designation. Prior to joining the real estate industry, Terri was manager of the P&G Employees Credit Union for 18 years.

Black Friday: It looks like the day after Thanksgiving was huge. Several retailers told me they saw big increases over last year. J.C. Penney at the mall, for example, never had a day that big, according to manager Gary McDowell. He said they saw a 20 percent increase over last year.

Scott Moyers is the business editor for the Southeast Missourian.

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