Making sure to get that order just right

Published 9:45 am Saturday, May 14, 2022

All of us have had the experience of going through the drive-thru, placing our order, and when we arrive at the window to pay and pick up our order to be asked to “pull forward.”  Our order is not ready, and we are holding up the customers behind us.  When this has happened to me, it never ends well.  

Many years ago, when my husband Tom and I were both working full-time, I picked him up after work and we headed to McDonalds to pick up some food for our son Jeff.  We had attended an event where food was served so we had already eaten.  Thus, the reason we were taking food home to our son.   

I placed the order at the drive-thru.  It was for a plain hamburger, fries, and a drink.  When I arrived at the window to pick up my order, I paid, and was asked to “pull forward.”  As I stated, I’ve been asked this before, and it was not a good experience.  I’m talking long wait (and I mean LONG wait), the food was cold, and the ice in the drinks was melting.  Another time, some of the order was missing which I didn’t realize until I pulled away and checked the order.  So, I would have had to get back in the line or go inside to claim the missing food—and there was most predictably another wait for it!  

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So, I politely responded “No” to the counter worker.  She repeated the request to pull forward.  Once again, I said “no, I’ll wait here.”  She immediately and abruptly turned and found the manager a few feet away.  Even though I couldn’t hear what she said to the manager, her body language was pretty explicit with the arm waving and pointing.  

My passenger husband said to me that perhaps I should pull forward.  I told him that I’d already had this experience before and that I wasn’t going to move.  I think he was a bit embarrassed, but he also knew that this was not his fight and got quiet.  

The manager must have told her to try again.  Which she did—and my response was the same.  She assured me that the food would be brought out to me as soon as it was ready if I simply pulled forward.  I told her that I had found that that was never the case and that I would not pull forward.  

According to QSR Magazine (I’m assuming that stands for Quick Service Restaurant), the best “customer service” rating goes to Chick-fil-A.  No surprise there.  It also was the reason they were named Drive-Thru Restaurant of the Year for 2021.  Probably had lots to do with the accuracy of the orders.  Taco Bell is winning the drive-thru wars for the fastest drive-thru in the country.  But alas, their accuracy rating not so good.   No kidding.  An interesting point is that 30 percent of respondents to a survey indicated that they preferred separate payment and pickup windows.  I haven’t given much thought to what my preference is, but I’m glad to know that the experts are hard at work deciphering the benefits and efficiency of a single window versus the two-window model.  

So, back to my “I will not pull forward” story.  The young female counter worker spent a few more minutes trying to formulate another way of asking me to “pull forward” but just before she tried her new request on me, the burger and fries were ready.  I thanked her and happily drove away.  I mean, how much more time (really?) does it take to provide your customer with a naked burger than if you had put the two pickle chips and a smear of mustard on it?

I must tell you that we recently ate dinner with Jeff and his family which included his 8-year-old son.   This was a sit-down dinner so when the waitress asked him what he wanted to eat, he declared he wanted a hamburger—PLAIN!  I can predict the future for our son as he navigates the pitfalls of drive-thru on behalf of his son.  And I smile!  


Bonnie Brown writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle. She can be reached at