Working the queue

McDonalds in Elizabeth Street — at least at busy times — appears to now have someone who takes peoples’ orders while they’re still in the queue. The order is keyed into an electronic gizmo, which presumably goes into the Maccas computer, and the price of the order is quoted to the customer, and a ticket with a reference number is handed over. The customer then queues, hands over the ticket, pays, and they get their order.

Expediter in Maccas

Is this a more efficient use of that employee than getting them to actually staff another register and serve people in the conventional way?

Perhaps not. Joel Spolsky noted critics’ views of a similar phenomenon in Starbucks:

Expediters are not really there to see to it that a customer’s order is filled more quickly, they believe. Rather, expediters exist solely to prevent people in line from giving up and wandering off, maybe to go to the Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner. Once a customer places an order, the logic goes, he or she feels an ethical obligation to wait for it to be filled, no matter how long the process takes. Expediters are there to lock in that order as soon as possible.

Interesting. Whether that’s the philosophy behind the Maccas lady working the queue or not, I don’t know, but it’s not clear to me how it was the best use of her time. Though perhaps there’s no space for another register?

(OK, OK, I admit it: I went in for a Filet’O’Fish. I was hungry and in a hurry, OK?)

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13 Replies to “Working the queue”

  1. It speeds up the queue, but not as much as another register does. I don’t think I’ve seen them use this while there’s a spare register.

  2. For shame, Daniel. Even Subway is more nutritious than the grease that’s now clogging your bowel. Didn’t “Supersize Me” teach you anything? ;-)

  3. It would be more efficient because it would ensure that the people preparing the food always have another order to put together and wouldn’t have to wait for queues to move and orders to flow. The woman talking to the queued customers doesn’t have to take money so she’s working faster than someone at a register would be, and the people then stay in the queue to wait for their food instead of congregating around the counter.

    In the past, when McDonalds made all its food ahead and the register operators just grabbed it from the warming racks, this queue operation wouldn’t have been helpful. But now that they make burgers and other items only when they’re ordered, this would be the best way to keep things running at full capacity.

  4. I tried this once at a Starbucks in NYC…the employees just seemed confused and ended up actually forgetting my order – which was good for me – I got a free coffee out of it!

  5. It speeds things up when there’s a lot of people and enough staff behind the back making burgers, because they know what the people want, and therefore, as soon as you go up to the counter after the other lady takes your order, you pay them, and they almost instantly give you your order.

    They used to use this at Box Hill, but it stopped. Most likely because it was too ineffective because there were too many people. Apparently, in 2 hours, that place will serve 800+ customers. Due to the queues, I don’t go there anymore. I go to Doncaster. A lot friendly, short, fast and convenient.

  6. I……..ah, a friend has experienced this. I couldn’t see the point. It just seemed to make things more complicated and no faster. I forgot about it as soon as I walked out. I should have thought about it. Yes, to keep the customers there, keep things tight and make sure a customer interaction happens early.

  7. An interesting theory on retaining customers that might otherwise change their mind about waiting in a long line. This is probably not the purpose intended but most people who actually place an order would feel they are being very rude by walking out. Dunkin’ Donuts does have very good coffee and it is cheaper than Starbucks coffee. I think their donuts are better than Krispy Creme’s too. I have not yet had Mickey D’s in Australia. I prefer your Aussie meat pies for a quick meal instead. Meat pies like these do not exist in the USA.

  8. They do this at Wagga Wagga Maccas too. I think it helps when it is busy, but they really need to either go back to premade burgers or put more staff on. Still not anywhere near as slow as our local KFC though!

  9. I find this process annoying and it really doesn’t seem to speed up the process. Bring back pre-made burgers. I’ve always wondered what happens if the person ‘out front’ takes your order and you order a dozen burgers, few milkshakes, etc, etc, and then when you get to the counter just ask for a cheeseburger. Or rather, just walk off because you got sick of waiting. I assume they just throw it all away now that they make all burgers ‘when ordered’.

  10. ive never liked the pre-made idea tho … you never know how long its been sitting there before you came along. when they did that i would always ask for no tomato or no sauce just so they would have to make a fresh one for me ;-)

  11. They’ve been doing this in the Collins St McDonalds (opp the Kino) for about a year and a half now (during peak times anyway)

    I’m not convinced it’s quicker in comparison to another register – but I wasn’t an expert in queuing theory….

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