Ask the person who processes take-out orders

About 10 months ago, I found a job at a company that partners with restaurants to process their take-out orders.

A bit of background–
The owner of the company used to own several McDonald’s stores. One day he realized that his company would be more efficient if he could somehow come up with a way to have the drive-through orders go to a central location, rather than have somebody in every store taking orders for just that store. It worked very well, and he eventually sold his McDonald’s, and started a company to do much the same thing for nationwide chains.

I personally take orders for P. F. Chang’s, but we also take orders for McAllister’s, Chipotle, Qdoba, Famous Dave’s, and others. If you’ve ordered take-out or catering from any of those places in the last year or two, there’s an excellent chance that you’ve talked to one of my coworkers.

So–any questions?

I think lots of nationwide pizza places use regional call centers now. Seems like it anyway.

  1. Is it hard keeping track of the menu and special-ordering capabilities for that many different restaurants? Let’s say I place a huge order to P. F. Chang’s and one of the things I ask for is something that isn’t on the regular menu but I know that the restaurant can make it by special request. Can your operation handle those kinds of requests as well as a person at the restaurant?

  2. What is the strangest thing you have ever had anyone order (or try to order)?

Most of the restaurants are pretty standardized in terms of menu. The main exception is the P. F. Chang’s in Irvine, CA. It’s some sort of concept store, and it’s pretty different from all the others. I think of it as being off by itself, doing it’s own weird thing.

In addition, the ordering platform software was custom-designed. There’s a section called “Local Items” which lists any items that are not on the menu, but can be made by that particular store. And if all else fails, I can put the customer on hold, and talk directly to the store.

There’s a few people who seemingly can’t remember what restaurant they’re calling. I’ve had a few people ask for french fries, Thousand Island dressing, etc.

There are some odd requests that can be fulfilled. I recently had a lady who wanted some rice and grilled chicken–no sauce or anything else. Chang’s does have a grilled salmon on the menu, so that request could be accommodated.

Some of the strangest things, though, are the names that people come up with for some of the dishes. A lot of people don’t know the names very well, so they come up with a mixture of partial names from memory, conflated with other Chinese restaurants. We have a starter called Dynamite Shrimp–a few people call it “bang-bang shrimp.”

That is the name at Bonefish Grill which had it first I believe.