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Hey Burger King, you’re getting timed for a reason!

Last night on the way home from camp the kids and I went through the Burger King Drive-Through.  When we were next in line for the window I noticed that the guy in front of me had his reverse lights on, so I stayed back about 10 feet – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people back up for something, forget they’re in reverse, then hit the gas.  When it was my turn at the window, the BK cashier asked me to pull forward and then back up.  I was so surprised and busy processing what she was saying and trying not to back up into the window with my mirror and asking for salt and checking the orders that I didn’t get a chance to ask her why.  But I guessed that she had asked the guy in front of me to do the same thing.  As I was leaving I looked in the review mirror I saw that the guy behind me was doing the same thing as well.  WTF?

It bothered me all night that I couldn’t figure out what the purpose was.  I went back in my mind to my McDonald’s and Arby’s days, but at both places I made the food, I didn’t work the Drive-Through.  Then, finally, it hit me: I’ve seen big timers in some restaurants, timing how long each Drive-Through order was taking.  There must be a sensor somewhere that stops the clock and starts timing the next order!  Was she asking each car to stop the clock on their order so that the restaurant’s stats would look good?

I went back this morning, in the interest of investigation – not because I was dying for a Croissan’wich.  Once again, when I got to the window, I was asked to pull forward and back up.  I said “Why?  Are you trying to stop the timer?”  She said yes.  I said something to the effect of “But that’s cheating.  How will the process get any faster if they think you’re already really fast?”  I know enough about fast food restaurants to know that they really study this stuff.  There are systems that figure out when you should drop fries based on how many cars are in the Drive-Through lines.  There are McDonald’s that have outsourced their Drive-Through order-taking jobs to call centers.  Corporate sure as hell wants to know for how long people are sitting in the Drive-Through.

The BK worker admitted that yes, it was cheating, but that the restaurant is given time goals each week and they’re not meeting them.  So I said something like, “But how will the times get faster if you don’t acknowledge that there’s a problem?”  She told me I didn’t have to pull forward if I didn’t want to.  I’m not really sure it was necessary for her to tell me that.  Was the alternative for her to hold my food hostage until I pulled forward?

When I go through a Drive-Through, I want the process to be fast.  And more often than not here in Brooklyn, the process is anything but.  So as a customer, it is absolutely not in my best interest to help Burger King trick corporate into thinking that they’re already speedy.  I’m insulted that they’d ask.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom.  All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted.  Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.

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Kelsey Edwards

Saturday 5th of September 2020

It's mostly because these places are very understaffed and refuse to hire adequate numbers of employees to cover the shifts.

Amy Oztan

Sunday 6th of September 2020

I agree. But having accurate numbers for how long it's taking to get food to customers would help with adequate staffing. If they're fudging the numbers so that they can continue to overwork the staff, then they deserve the criticism.

Eric

Tuesday 29th of September 2015

Haha. I was just at Taco Bell and the drive thru guy gave me a free drink for backing up and pulling forward again. I was so confused. But I still don't fully understand, if I back up and retrigger the sensor then won't there be less actual receipts for orders then the number of times the timer gets triggered. So for instance the manager would have say 20 orders (with receipts) but the timer would hav been triggered 21 times. Or am I still missing something

At any rate I urge you all to go to Taco Bell at 2 am on a weekday...free drinks quid pro quo

Amy Oztan

Tuesday 29th of September 2015

Yeah, that makes no sense!! Back when this happened I had to pull FORWARD to stop the timer, then back up to the window. But just backing up and going forward? I don't understand that.

Diane

Tuesday 22nd of September 2015

As a current shift manager at a BK I can tell you everything wrong with BK. They start you at 7.25 and never give raises, only allow a small amount for food cost so when we run out, that's it until next truck. They have worked one guy for 3 weeks straight with no days off because they discriminate against who they want to hire and won't find another person to do this guys job. District manager yells at you for getting overtime when the GM causes it. They make you put as little as possible on burgers to save(there again, food cost) You have to have a Dr. note any time you call in sick which most people cant afford when they just have a bad cold(watch your food guys) They play favorites and give hrs and best shifts to the ones they like, even if they don't do their job right. The drive thru times have to be low so we are required to park customers and bring their food to them. It's not that we are trying to cheat (shift managers and team members) we are doing what we are told by higher management but the second someone complains, higher management will deny having us do this and we get write ups. We are always short handed so we bust our butts to do non-stop drive-thru, the front, prepare sandwiches. make a billion shakes that take forever, cut onions and tomatoes, cook bacon for the next day with only 3 people. Most customers take forever to order in drive-thru or they order huge amounts of food without having the courtesy of ordering inside. BUT WHO DO THE CUSTOMERS GET MAD AT????? Us.... busting our butts for little pay. smh. I can't stand people who think this world revolves around them and only them. So they asked you to pull up... do it. You are helping an employee to not get chewed out or written up for something that is beyond their control. Get over yourself.

N

Friday 30th of April 2021

Thank you for this... I just stumbled upon this post and your comment is so right.... i been in and out of BK and only because i had school and 2 jobs.. but, it's TRUE we dont want to park you or do all the extra work, we have to... if the timer is above 2.45 we get bitched at by the general manager and district...

Amy Oztan

Tuesday 22nd of September 2015

Hi Diane, with all due respect, this is not a "get over yourself" situation. I didn't get mad (I actually had a completely civil conversation with the drive-thru person), and I don't think that the world revolves about me. It's not about me being inconvenienced, it's about me pointing out that a system is broken.

I've worked in two different fast food restaurants so I know what the deal is. If I order something special, like a veggie burger (which I often do) or fries without salt (which I would never do), then I would expect to be asked to back up or pull over. But when that's happening for every single order, something is comically wrong with the system.

If the people who make the decisions about procedures and timing would work on the line or at the counter or in the drive-thru for a day, they would make more realistic decisions. They won't do anything even approaching that if they're unaware of how bad the situation is. You just explained how bad it is, and while I understand you not wanting to point these things out to executives because you might be worried about your job, I find it confusing that you're defending the broken system to me. We're essentially on the same side. Working at fast food restaurants sucks, and putting unrealistic expectations on overworked and underpaid employees makes it suck more.

I read an interesting article the other day about a franchise owner who got out of the fast food business after 50 years (having started from the bottom) because of unrealistic expectations from the company. He made some of the same points that I made here six years ago. http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2015-mcdonalds-franchises/ It all goes back to people high up not knowing what's really happening inside the restaurants.

M. Larou

Friday 5th of April 2013

It blows my mind how much of a big deal this is to you. People are starving and you're whining about what fast food restaurants are 'doing to the customer.' They're not hurting you in any way. I worked in fast food for 5 years, and not all, but alot of people in there are working VERY hard, and as fast as they can to bring you your food, which is apparently a major issue. The times that corporate decides are wildly unfair. And they DO start at the menu boards. Did you notice how some places have two windows? That is another attempt to help the time, and get more orders in. You try assembling 24 tacos in under 3 minutes.

I don't even understand how this is 'useful information' or something to 'watch out for.' This is ridiculous and sad.

Beauty

Thursday 7th of July 2011

maybe I am just paranoid but I wouldn’t be making the minimum wage worker who is making my food out of my sight’s job harder. one of my rules is don’t tick off the cook.it’s not like they work there because they’re passionate about burgers, they’re just trying to keep their bosses from firing them for circumstances beyond their control to support themselves.

Amy

Thursday 7th of July 2011

@Beauty: Hi Beauty, thanks for your comment. Normally I would agree with you if it was just a token amount of rudeness or a mistake in the order. But this, to me, went beyond that - I was being inconvenienced to help trick a system that clearly wasn't gauging what it is supposed to gauge. I've worked in two fast food places among my many restaurant jobs, and while I completely understand that they're shitty jobs for nowhere near enough pay, that doesn't give someone a blanket excuse not to do it as best she can. Since I agree that this issue as a whole was beyond this worker's control, I would've happily talked to a manager. This worker's life wasn't being made any easier by this system either, and hopefully someone from higher up in Burger King read this.

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