But it's not enough to fill me up

I need more than just words can say

I need everything this life can give me"

"Best Of Both Worlds"

~ Van Halen ~

By Dennis Wright

In spending two-thirds of my work day on the road, traveling from place to place, event to event, there really isn't a lot of time to actually sit down and enjoy a fancy meal. Granted, those opportunities do come at certain events, but a majority of my meals come from the glass window of a drive-thru fast food restaurant.

Having worked in several of these establishments in my youth, I certainly have an understanding for the typical fast food employee. Wearing company uniforms, working long hours (mostly on their feet), dealing with customers - at times it isn't a glamorous profession. However, the fast food employee, along with good customer service, is essential not only for their business, but to the community at large.

It's the public, those of us who rely on tasty burgers, frenchy fries, soft tacos, and chicken wraps, who partake in fast food restaurants, and don't have the time to walk in and sit down. We're driving on the fly, grabbing a bag of goodies, and devouring them to hold us over until we travel through again.

For the most part, the customer service I've found in our four main local fast food restaurants, those being Burger King, Wendy's, McDonald's and Taco Bell/KFC, has been proportionally proficient to above average efficient. So I decided I'd come up with a system to actually grade the four drive-thru procedures.

So saints and sinners, Kelly Devine and myself made three trips each to Burger King, Wendy's, McDonald's and Taco Bell/KFC, placed orders, took notes, and actually ate everything ordered.

Now, we could've been truly ridiculous and order off-the-wall items like a Whopper, no onions, light catsup, three pickles, and extra cheese, but we didn't. We didn't want to make this any more strenuous than necessary. Besides, we were more curious to see how everyone would handle the simplest of orders.

The four restaurants were graded, on a scale of one to four (four being the best), in three categories: speed, customer service and accuracy. Speed means how many cars were ahead, compared to the overall time from placing the order to receiving the food. Customer service is the interaction received from the employee, whether over the speaker, to being at the window. Accuracy is receiving exactly what we ordered. Nothing too complicated nor out of the ordinary. Adding the categories together, each trip had the opportunity to gain a maximum score of 12, or a minimum score of 3.

This process took place over the last three weeks, and here are the results of our findings.

Taking first place with an overall score of 35 points was Burger King.

Our first trip to Burger King was on Tuesday, June 15, at 10:21 p.m. Dave took my order of two whoppers (buy one, get one free coupon) immediately and was friendly and pleasant. After paying at the first window, Dave went over to the second window to hand me my whoppers. With one car in front of us, we were in and out of there in four minutes. Speed: 3, Customer service: 4, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 11.

With a good feeling inside from our previous trip the night before, we ventured back to Burger King on Wednesday, June 16, at 2:16 p.m., and was greeted by manager Jamar. After ordering two tendercrisp sandwiches, Jamar greeted me at the first window. I expressed to him the wonderful service I received the night before, and he stated he's been working hard with his young employees, stressing to them customer service. What a coincidence, I thought. Jamar then rushed over to the second window and handed me my sandwiches, and wished me a "good day." With no cars in front, the total trip was two minutes. Speed: 4, Customer service: 4, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 12.

Wondering if a third time would be a charm, I returned for my final time at Burger King on Friday, June 18 at 1 p.m., and Jamar was present again. He asked me if I wanted two more tendercrisp sandwiches (he remembered my last order, how cool). I declined and asked for two whoppers. He said they'd just finished their lunch hour, so I arrived at a good time. Jamar then went to the second window and gave me my whoppers. "Come back again," was the farewell I received. With no cars in front, this trip was a brisk two minutes. Speed: 4, Customer service: 4, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 12.

Coming in a close second place is Taco Bell/KFC, with a respectable score of 32 points.

Starting off the week of June 14 was my first trip to Taco Bell/KFC at 4:15 p.m. Yolanda took my order of eight soft tacos and asked me to drive around for my total. She was pleasant, and she greeted me with a smile when asking if I wanted any sauce. With no cars in front of me, I was leaving the border in under 3 minutes. Speed: 4, Customer service: 3, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 11.

Kelly Devine made her way to Taco Bell/KFC at noontime on Tuesday, June 15. She ordered herself a popcorn chicken combo, and was met by Naciera at the window. Naciera was rather nice, and asked if sauce was needed. With one car in her way, Kelly was outta there in two minutes. Speed: 4, Customer service: 3, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 11.

Satisfied with her previous trip, Kelly had a hankering for a cheesy gordita from Taco Bell/KFC on Thursday, June 24 at 11:53 a.m. Greeted again by Naciera, she was very sociable this time around, asking again if sauce was needed. This time, hot sauce was requested, but mild sauce was in the bag instead. Also, the bag was messy inside due to the cheesy gordita. This border-line experience lasted an entire minute. Speed: 4, Customer service: 4, and Accuracy: 2 - total score of 10.

With no disrespect intended to Dave Thomas, his gal Wendy's finished third with a score of 28.

While working on Sunday, June 13, around 6 p.m., Kelly was feeling spicy, as in a spicy chicken combo, from Wendy's. Chris took her order, and his attitude certainly wasn't reflective of Wendy's cheery disposition. However, a female employee whose name isn't available made up for Chris' attitude and handed Kelly her meal. However, with no car in front, seven minutes is a bit lengthy to visit the gal with red pigtails. Speed: 1, Customer service: 2, and Accuracy: 3 - total score of 6.

Willing to give Wendy's the benefit of the doubt, Kelly made a return visit on Monday, June 21, at 5:30 p.m. While Jenny spoke enough to take Kelly's order of a junior hamburger, french fries and 5-piece nuggets, she didn't speak at all at the window, no hello, thank you nor good-bye. This speechless trip, even with one car in front, was a brief two minutes. Speed: 4, Customer service: 2, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 10.

I had to see for myself how Wendy's would treat me when I cruised over on Tuesday, June 22, at 1:22 p.m. The ultra-pleasant voice of co-manager Tish came through the voice box to take my order of four junior cheeseburgers and side salad. Upon arriving at the second window, Tish was extremely friendly, thanking me and wishing me a nice day. After receiving an accompanying smile from Sara upon handing me my food, I found this experience to be pretty awesome in two minutes. That's even with two cars in front - they call it a comeback! Speed: 4, Customer service: 4, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 12.

Finally, tears of a clown couldn't help McDonald's, because someone had to finish last with a score of 22.

Trying to avoid an oncoming thunderstorm, I figured four double-cheeseburgers would hit the spot from McDonald's on Thursday, June 17, at 7:27 p.m. The duo of Danny at the first window (very courteous), and James at the second window (casual), my napkin-less bag of burgers was delivered to me. However, a five-minute wait, with one car in front, allowed my burgers to be semi-chill upon leaving the premises. Speed: 2, Customer service: 3, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 9.

Two double-cheeseburgers to go from McDonald's on Sunday, June 20, at 6:10 p.m. proved to be an adventure. Upon pulling around to the drive-thru, I noticed two vehicles already in front of me, which isn't a problem. Apparently, problems were only beginning, because after I placed my order, I sat for almost three minutes without moving. After making it to the first window, the male employee informed me that the grill people were especially slow that day. Six minutes later, stuck between both windows, the two cars in front of me finally left the line. At the second window, Danny went to hand me my bag, only to pull it back, repeat back to me what I ordered, and stated, "I just wanted to make sure that YOUR order was correct. The last two were wrong." Knowing that I'll never get those 11 minutes back in my lifetime, this trip to the golden arches was definitely tarnished. Speed: 1, Customer service: 1, and Accuracy: 3 - total score of 5.

Kelly decided to round out our saturated survey by taking one for the team at McDonald's on Thursday, June 24, at 11:44 a.m., while in the mood for a large fries. Anna took her order and greeted Kelly at the first window. After giving her the fries, Tom sent Kelly on her way with a "thank you, have a good day, ma'am." While the mood was better, the timing was not, as it took 6 minutes with one car in front. Speed: 1, Customer service: 3, and Accuracy: 4 - total score of 8.

After meeting and comparing all of our receipts, notes and expanding waistlines, Kelly and I computed all of the scores and now our work is done, at least for now. If you're wondering what the point was to this, well, we certainly hope that those who've scored well, will read this and feel good that they performed admirably without the knowledge of being scored. For those who didn't fare so well, perhaps this is a hard look in the mirror, and improve upon some things before another drive-thru customer comes to the restaurant. You just never know who's keeping score, and who's simply hungry.

By the way, this little survey is just the beginning. After we let this sit and digest for a spell, literally, we'll be back out there, and you never know who or what we'll be targeting next. Brace yourselves!

****

Dennis J. Wright can be reached at dwright@phoenixvillenews.com.

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