Miami Management is a 16-unit Wendy’s franchisee based in Lexington, Kentucky. In the fall of 2005, they decided to pilot the use of wireless tablets to take orders in an attempt to increase the number of cars processed in the drive-thru.
During peak hours in a few of its busiest restaurants, Miami Management placed order-takers with these wireless tablets out in their drive-thrus, essentially creating a second order point to reduce ordering bottlenecks.
“You could say that this was our rudimentary version of remote ordering,” says Brian Fields, Miami Management’s director of operations. “While the tablet solution certainly had its limitations — for example, we couldn’t use it in the rain or snow or when it was too hot or too cold — we learned that we were able to increase our thru-put by adding that second order point.
“We knew there was additional demand at our restaurants that we could capture with a proper remote ordering solution, and the pay-off would be there.”
For a solution, they turned to Exit41’s Order Perfect(tm) solution to allow for multi-lane drive-thrus and remote ordering.
After a successful pilot at two of its restaurants in the fall of 2006, Miami Management made the decision to implement the Exit41 solution throughout all 16 of its restaurants. The implementation consisted of adding an additional lane to the drive-thru with the set up of an off-site call center called the “order center,” where orders are taken.
Adding another lane? According to Exit41 CEO Joe Gagnon, there is of course some construction needed to do this, and they’ve found very few lots that couldn’t be modified. “Your lot might look small,” he says, “but you’d be surprised how much you can fit in there.”
In terms of operation, when the customer arrives at the order point — whether the existing one or newly installed one — a voice-over-IP phone call is automatically made (in real-time) to the order center, where it is taken by an order specialist. As the order is taken, it is immediately available in the restaurant, enabling the staff to start preparing the food even before the order has been completed.
By extending the restaurant operation with the order center, order specialists can focus on providing quick, friendly, accurate service to customers while the restaurant team is freed up to concentrate on fast, efficient production and accurate delivery.
According to Miami Management’s Brian Fields, the order being taken off-site is transparent to the customer — what’s changed is that the service is faster, friendlier, and more accurate. To ensure that ordering happens at the speed required to process the maximum number of cars in an hour, Exit41’s service commitment is to have an order-taker respond to the customer within 6 seconds 95 percent of the time — and in the rare instance that communications go down, the system can be switched to “Store” mode, allowing the restaurant to process orders as they had been prior to the order center.
As for the all-important question of order accuracy, Miami Management has found that accuracy is up with the order center. Consumer surveys support this conclusion.
Fields says they’ve seen thru-put rise and store sales increase an average of 6 percent over control stores. In addition to the increase in demand they anticipated, other factors contributing to the improvements are more consistent up-selling by the order specialists to increase average check, shorter lines that make customers more likely to visit, as well as an increase in late-night sales (i.e., by separating the order and delivery functions, all orders are entered into the POS system, greatly reducing the opportunity for internal theft that often occurs during late-night).
“We absolutely see this as a competitive advantage for our franchise today,” says Fields. “I truly believe remote ordering is the future of the quick-service drive-thru — a couple years from now, it will be table stakes.”
The expected ROI per store is an average of 12 months, depending on store volume.