Wally Kennedy: Convenience consumes 100,000 gallons of gas on Range Line

Not long ago, I wrote about the convenience of drive-through windows. It was specifically in regard to the drive-through at Macadoodles at 17th Street and Range Line Road.
I said you could pick up some spirits there and then drive through interconnecting parking lots to the drive-through windows at Backyard Burgers or Wendy’s. Booze and burgers — sounds like a great combination to me. And so convenient. You wouldn’t have to leave your car to get two of life’s finer necessities. Why, you could wear your pajamas or a bathrobe to both places and no one would be the wiser.

Boy, did I set myself up for a heaping dose of criticism from a reader. My enthusiasm for drive-through windows was tempered by some eye-opening facts that should give us pause to think about the true cost of convenience.

After telling me that she enjoyed this column, the reader then wrote: “In today’s column about the opening of Macadoodles, you promote the use of their drive-through window, as well as the drive-through windows at adjacent restaurants. With so many environmental and economical issues linked to gasoline consumption, the use of drive-through facilities should be discouraged rather than encouraged.”

Oops. And then the other shoe — or should I say boot — fell.

The reader cited a study published in the Transportation Research Record called “Energy Analysis and Alternative Fuels and Vehicles.” It found that an average fast-food restaurant with 2,000 vehicles using the drive-through each week causes the use of more than 57 gallons of gas per week, or more than 2,960 gallons per year.

An average two-lane bank drive-through causes the use of more than 62 gallons of gas per week, or more than 3,200 gallons per year, the study said.

She wrote: “When one extrapolates this data to include the vast number of drive-through windows across our country, it is clear that substantial amounts of extra fuel are consumed and added pollutants released. As consumers, we can choose to park our cars and go inside rather than idling along in drive-through lines. Most of us are physically able to do this, and, in fact, would benefit from the extra steps involved.”

You can’t argue with that. It’s clear that an idling engine gets the worst possible gas mileage — zero miles per gallon. Case closed.

But that got me to thinking. Just how many drive-through windows are there on Range Line Road? This would require the imperfect but reliable science of a windshield survey. I counted 22 drive-through windows between 44th Street and Seventh Street, and 12 between Seventh Street and MacArthur Drive in Webb City, the northernmost end of Range Line. This did not include banks.

So, 34 drive-through windows times 2,960 gallons equals about 100,640 gallons of gasoline idled away each year on Range Line. That’s enough to fill 11 tanker trucks.

The windshield survey was so exhausting that I had to go through the drive-through at McDonald’s to get a soda to quench my thirst. There was no one in line at the time. It took less than two minutes, so my idling time was very limited. I am not a wanton idler.

So here are some things to think about when you use a drive-through window. If there’s a line at the window, avoid it unless you want to waste your money and time. If you have to wait in one spot for more than 10 seconds, turn off your car. Idling for 10 seconds or more uses more fuel than restarting your engine.

There’s a lot more to this idling thing than meets the eye. I intend to revisit this subject in the future. In the meantime, do something good for yourself and the country. Don’t be an idler.



Jack in the Box, Wendy’s to outsource drive-through order-takers

10:11 AM CST on Tuesday, January 27, 2009

HOUSTON—Next time you pull up to a fast-food drive-through, the voice you hear could be miles away.

Some restaurant chains, including Jack in the Box and Wendy’s, are giving outsourcing a try.

Orders will be taken from a call center instead of at the restaurants themselves.

The centers will be staffed with dozens of workers.

Jack in the Box said the goal is to be more efficient and accurate, but critics said it’s a way for restaurants to cut jobs.


Chain Outsources Drive-Through Orders

UPDATED: 10:52 am EST January 27, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A fast-food giant is trying to determine whether its easier to place your drive-through order with someone around the world instead of around the corner.
Jack in the Box Inc. has been testing a program in some Charlotte-area restaurants that outsources order-taking to a call center elsewhere.
Company spokeswoman Kathleen Anthony told the Charlotte Observer that the technology is intended to improve speed, accuracy and service.

The San Diego-based restaurant chain hopes the process will free up on-site employees to process orders, accept payment and address other needs.
Anthony said the orders are routed to a Texas call center operated by Bronco Communications, and she said some orders may be routed outside of the country.


Wal-Mart studies expected to begin in Atascadero

Council set to launch economic and environmental analysis of proposed project, which could face changes
AnnMarie Cornejo – acornejo@thetribunenews.com
The Atascadero City Council on Tuesday is expected to launch a long-awaited economic and environmental analysis of the proposed Wal-Mart and an adjacent shopping center.

The report has been delayed since March, when Atascadero residents prepared to vote on an ill-fated ballot initiative that would have restricted the size of the store.

The study will determine the project’s effects on the surrounding area, including impacts on traffic, air quality and city services.

The planning document will also detail project alternatives — possibly including several project changes recently proposed by City Councilman Jerry Clay.

He has asked fellow council members to consider adding two restaurant pads to the front of the Wal-Mart project, moving the retailer’s garden center outdoors and adding a drive-through pharmacy to the main building.

Clay’s request mimics what he says the community has expressed interest in.

The council will discuss adding the proposals as a studied project alternative when it meets Tuesday night.

The request has been called unusual by some residents because the developer has not yet asked for the changes.

“These are things that people in the community have said they want,” Clay said. “It is very possible Wal-Mart may not be interested in making these changes, but I wanted to bring them to the discussion.”

Wal-Mart spokesman Aaron Rios, who will attend Tuesday’s meeting along with the project consultants, said that he did not plan to address the council with any additional requests.

“We will present the plan we requested in March of 2008 and are open to consider any changes requested by the council or staff,” Rios said of Clay’s proposals.

Wal-Mart and developer The Rottman Group submitted a revised application to the city Jan. 9 for the planned 146,500-square-foot store and 114,574-square-foot strip mall at Del Rio Road and El Camino Real.

Adding the two restaurant pads suggested by Clay to the project could potentially add 16,000-square-feet to the project — pushing the project over the 150,000-square-foot cap required for the project site by the city’s General Plan, its blueprint for regulating growth.

A General Plan amendment would be required to allow the added square footage, said Warren Frace, Community Development director.

The environmental review process is estimated to take more than a year to complete. Additional public meetings, study sessions and planning reviews will follow before construction will begin.

The City Council voted 4-1 in March to process Wal-Mart and the Rottman Group’s applications, but the looming Shield Initiative led the developers to hold off taking the next step of the environmental review.

The ballot measure sought to ban any store of more than 150,000 square feet and restrict stores of more than 90,000 square feet from devoting 5 percent or more of their space to groceries.

The decisive defeat of the ballot measure by voters in November once again launched the planning process forward.

“This is the next step that has always been anticipated,” Frace said.

The Wal-Mart application includes retail sales, a grocery and a garden center on a 21.6-acre site with 650 parking spaces. The adjacent Annex Shopping Center, proposed by the Rottman Group, includes eight retail buildings on a 13-acre site. The site plan includes one drive-through restaurant and a drug store with a drive-through pharmacy.

Project details and maps are available for public review during business hours at City Hall, 6907 El Camino Real.


Fast-food industry tests outsourcing

Published: January 26, 2009

CHARLOTTE – A fast-food giant has been trying to determine whether it’s easier to place your drive-through order with someone around the world instead of around the corner.

Jack in the Box Inc. has been outsourcing order-taking for some Charlotte-area restaurants to a call center elsewhere, testing whether the idea could improve efficiency.

Company spokeswoman Kathleen Anthony said that the technology is intended to improve speed, accuracy and service. Jack in the Box, which is based in San Diego, hopes the process will free up on-site employees to process orders and accept payment.

“It is something we’re testing, not something we’re necessarily committed to at this point,” said Anthony, who wouldn’t discuss the results of the Charlotte trial that began in the middle of last year.

Anthony said that the orders are routed to a Texas call center operated by Bronco Communications, and she said some orders may be routed outside of the country.

Restaurants including McDonald’s and Wendy’s franchisees have tried centralizing orders but neither has used the program nationally because they have found it difficult to prove that it saves money, said Sherri Daye Scott, the editor of QSR Magazine, a quick-service restaurant-industry publication.

Customers in Charlotte have noticed heavy accents among order-takers only to find different workers at the drive-through window.

“I had noticed it (several months ago), but I just thought the person taking the order was somewhere else in the store where we couldn’t see them,” customer Elizabeth Banks said. “It never occurred to me they might be out of the country.”

Kate Mosteller, the marketing director of Exit 41, which focuses on off-site order taking, said the technology can help eliminate barriers between customers and employees who speak different languages. But it can also be difficult to match order-takers with customers who may have different dialects or expectations.


Outsourcing Of Drive-Thru Order Takers! (Seriously)

From The Charlotte Observer:

“That crackling voice taking your order at a fast-food drive-through may come from a lot farther away than the restaurant: Try Texas,or even overseas.

San Diego-based Jack in the Box has tested outsourced drive-through order-taking since mid-2008 at seven of its 30 Charlotte-area restaurants. Spokeswoman Kathleen Anthony declined to specify the locations, though workers at the Cotswold restaurant in Charlotte recently said their restaurant uses the system.

The technology is intended to improve speed, accuracy and service, freeing up restaurant employees to process orders, accept payment and address other needs, Anthony said. The chain has not reduced staffing as a result of the remote order-taking, and the restaurants can turn the system on and off as they wish, she said.

Still, it’s piqued curiosity among local customers who have encountered heavy accents with order-takers, then rounded the bend to find different people handing them food…”


I can’t believe this isn’t a headline for The Onion. Many of already know I have a lot of issues with outsourcing and so called “free trade”, but even those of you who believe the earth is flat have to admit this story is insane.

We’re asking 300 million Americans to compete with over 6 billion people, many of which will work for a couple of bucks a day. I’m all for helping other countries build their economies, but if you haven’t noticed, we need a little help building ours at the moment and unemployment is very high. 

I’m referring to the *actual* unemployment amount, not the bullshit number that don’t include people who’ve given up looking for work or people who can’t get the full time hours they need and or people who’ve been forced to take jobs with shit pay just to avoid losing their house, etc.

And even if you don’t see the very valid and real problems with free trade/outsourcing, hopefully you can acknowledge that outsourcing Drive-Thru order taking jobs is a BAD idea. It’s already impossible to understand what the person is saying over the crackly speaker (and for them to understand you), and this just makes it more likely your order will be wrong and that you’ll end up frustrated or pissed off.




Outsourcing | EDITORIAL: Drive-through science: in search of efficiency

Dec 01, 2008 (The Decatur Daily – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — Running a drive-through at a fast-food restaurant is a science — employing computers to speed up service, fill orders accurately, and track sales patterns.

McDonald’s is doing early tests of call centers to take drive-through orders, according to chicago

tribune.com. When you converse with an order taker from your driver’s seat, that person may be miles away, servicing not only your location but also many others.

It’s all part of a constant push to increase efficiency, with drive-throughs handling a bigger portion of fast-food sales each year.

But here’s some science we’d like to know about drive-throughs: How much fuel do vehicles waste each year idling in drive-through lines, and how much healthier would customers be if they’d get out of their cars and burn a few calories while walking inside?