CHICAGO - McDonald's Corp., losing the speed race to rivals and racking up customer complaints about slow service, is adding a third drive-thru window. Called Fast Forward Drive-Thru, the reboot will start appearing in new and rebuilt McDonald's stores next year, spokeswoman Lisa McComb said in an email. Patrons now pay at the first window and pick up food at the second. Soon there will be a second pick-up window.
CHICAGO — McDonald’s Corp., losing the speed race to rivals and racking up customer complaints about slow service, is adding a third drive-thru window.
Called Fast Forward Drive-Thru, the reboot will start appearing in new and rebuilt McDonald’s stores next year, spokeswoman Lisa McComb said in an email. Patrons now pay at the first window and pick up food at the second. Soon there will be a second pick-up window.
“It enables customers to pull forward to receive orders at a third window when their order is not yet ready,” she said. It “will enable us to better serve more customers quickly.”
The drive-thru is even more important to McDonald’s than the Big Mac. The fast-food chain generates as much as
70 percent of its sales from hungry drivers, according to John Gordon, principal at San Diego-based Pacific Management Consulting Group and an adviser to restaurant franchisees. Boosting drive-thru speeds could help McDonald’s increase U.S. same-store sales, which have gained 1 percent or less for the past four quarters.
Ever since McDonald’s created its first drive-thru in 1975 in Sierra Vista, Ariz., fast-food chains have competed fiercely to shave seconds off order times, equipping workers with headsets, video cameras and clocks showing how long cars have been waiting. Some make it a game: At Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, the company pits franchisees against each other in a friendly competition for the fastest drive-thru times.
Disgruntled diners have taken to Twitter to complain about slow drive-thru service at McDonald’s .
In 2011, Bob Jedele, who owns seven McDonald’s stores, added a third window to his Greencastle, Ind., location and noticed an uptick in service speed.
“The slowest function is delivering the food,” he said. With the third window, “we’ve been able to more quickly take care of our guests.”
Jedele plans to add a window to a second store next year. About two-thirds of sales come from the drive-thru, he said.
A more-complicated menu has bogged down McDonald’s service. Customers can choose from nine sauces, such as spicy buffalo and creamy ranch, to go with Mighty Wings, for example.
“The more items you have on the menu, the more challenging it is to get everything served on time and at the right temperature,” said Sara Senatore, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in New York.
Service at McDonald’s drive-thrus takes longer than at Taco Bell and Wendy’s, according to an October study by QSR Magazine. It takes about 189 seconds at a McDonald’s store, compared with 158 seconds at Taco Bell and 134 seconds at Wendy’s. McDonald’s drive-thru service is slower than last year, the study shows.
McDonald’s U.S. same-store sales growth slowed to 0.7 percent in the third quarter from 1 percent in the previous quarter.