Fast food restaurants increasingly make sales through drive-thru windows. Speed and drive-thru service differentiate restaurants as much as menu. Language issues are often the cause of slow ordering or misunderstanding between the customer and order-taker. Because of the volatile nature of food products, wastage occurs because there are no sure ways of determining what to prepare in advance. In addition, customers are usually anonymous, making buying patterns hard to analyze.
The Fast-Food Quick Order System (FFQOS) extends the use of the typical point-of-sale (POS) hardware through relatively simple software enhancements. Data about each sale, made in the store or at the drive-thru, is stored in a local database with a unique man-readable identifier called the Quick Order System Number or QOS#. The QOS# is printed at the bottom of the customer receipt. QOS#'s are made of a string of restricted alphanumeric characters that are easily pronounced and not easily confused (i.e. no N, M, T, P, or D). As a convenience to the customer, they can present the identifier at a subsequent visit. The POS will retrieve the previous order and the order-taker will ask for confirmation that they wish to reorder the same selection. Many fast-food customers eat the same menu items and the use of the QOS# will reduce language miscommunications, speed the ordering process, and better ensure the proper items are delivered.
Although the customer remains anonymous, data collected by the FFQOS process can be mined to determine combination buying patterns and timing, and customer retention. Advanced analysis can better predict the time for preparation of cooked food items, reducing waste at the local store level. After a predetermined time, local FFQOS data can be uploaded to the Franchiser and deleted from the local restaurant. Franchisers then can aggregate FFQOS data from their restaurants to analyze regional buying patterns, seasonal changes, effectiveness of advertising to change buying habits, etc.
FFQOS can be implemented through a software change to existing POS systems. It uses existing receipt printers and data storage hardware. Customer’s will perceive it as an ordering convenience that does not require personal identifiers. The data is not identifiable, so it poses no risk to the restaurant/franchise in case of inadvertent disclosure. The use of FFQOS is entirely optional and it does not impose new operational processes on the customer and few on restaurant operations. To encourage its use, the restaurant could imprint the receipt with an offer of free item or discount for subsequent items that are ordered using the QOS#.