It’s All in The Details: Getting It Right in Order-Ahead Carryout

By Ben Savage

ben savage

Ben Savage, Chief Innovation Officer at Apex Supply Chain Technologies

In my last post I mentioned several inefficiencies today’s restaurant order-ahead methodologies create. Now I want to drill down into those with some more detail.

I really like the idea of order-ahead for when you’re in a rush. You can get a high quality, fresh meal fast. What I don’t like is that no one has really gotten the process right. At some locations your food is set out on a counter or shelf. At others, you have to go to the cash register and they retrieve your order if it’s ready — or you wait if it’s not.

Both current solutions have a similar flaw: they don’t do a good job of letting the customer know exactly when their food is ready. The order is ready when it’s ready, which may line up with the time when the customer is told or it may not.

You left my order where?

The idea of placing a customer’s order on a counter or shelf is flawed for three reasons:

  1. First, it means anyone can take another customer’s order and there’s no traceability to what happened.
  2. Second, the customer doesn’t have a way to know their order is actually ready, just an estimated time that doesn’t take into account the true demand of the location.
  3. Third, food sitting on an open shelf or counter is going to cool faster then if it were in an insulated storage location.

There’s a fourth problem that some locations have as well. They’re often designed with the registers and food prep all on the same side of the counter and the pick-up shelf is on the opposite side. That create a scenario where employees must fight through customers to place orders on the shelf and pick-up customers must navigate through customers in line to get to their orders.

Cutting in line

Requiring a customer to pick up their order at the cash register creates a different series of issues. In most cases this will slow down the customers who have waited through the line because the associate at the cash register will now be retrieving the pick-up order. In a worst-case scenario, it slows down the register and the food prep line if the order isn’t ready when the customer shows up.

There is also the same issue that a customer doesn’t know when their order is actually ready, they only have an estimated time for when it will be ready that does not reflect actual demand in the location.

Both situations have a common problem: The customer doesn’t have real-time visibility to when their order is ready. The two options above present different operation issues that, combined with the lack of order visibility, create potential customer service impacts.

Innovating from the customer’s perspective

This is the kind of meaty problem Apex loves to solve. Our tagline is “Every Thing is Possible,” because we believe we have the right depth of knowledge, technology and tools to solve any problem. We continually look at how to replace inefficient manual processes with automation, proximity, control and information.

What problems would you like to challenge us with?