Taking orders at fast food places

Not that I really go out for fast food much (anymore). But when I do, I notice that at most places they seem to have this system where when the person at the register takes the order they yell out what’s ordered to the cooks/kitchen. Nearly always, it seems that there’s no way the people in the kitchen could hear/process what’s being yelled out since they’re quite busy doing other things. Besides, this seems rather redundant since most of these places have computerized order systems anyway.

Anyone shed some light on this? Perhaps when you work food service for a long time, you get a sixth sense for hearing orders yelled out? It sometimes appears to me that this is some policy imposed by the managers, and the employees are just going through the motions.

What fast food places do you go to?
The only place where I still hear orders being called out is In n Out Burger. And hey wouldn’t you know it… they tend to get any speciality orders wrong.

I go to Wendy’s far too often, and I’ve only seen them do with with special orders. In this instance, I would guess it’s because either (A) their system isn’t set up to take special requests, or (B) the food preparers just pay attention to the “1 Double Cheeseburger” line on the order system, without noticing the “no pickles, no mustard” written below it.

I’ve worked fast food. You put the order into a computer, which appears on a screen above the grill.

But if there’s a special order, the person cooking the food sometimes doesn’t notice the special instructions. If you’re working the counter, you know you’re the one who’s going to be yelled at by the customer, so just to cover your own ass, you call back, “Hey, there’s no pickles on that cheeseburger, Jim-Bob!”

You especially do this if you know that the person on grill is likely to not really read the order.

It’s option B. The registers at Wendy’s allow cashiers to put in quite a variety of special requests, including “no,” “only,” or “extra” of any condiment (or meat), cut in half, etc.

This makes sense. However, I’ve noticed this at places where they call out every order – not just special orders.

Back when I worked in fast food (which was before all this stuff was computerized… yeah, I’m an old fart) food was cooked on a “turn” which was how many of that item you cooked at once. During the day you knew you’d need typically X amount of burgers at that time to keep up with the typical demand. For example, if you are cooking burgers on a 10 turn, then every time you cook burgers you make 10 at a time. If they take 4 minutes to make, you are making 10 burgers every 4 minutes.

When someone took one of the burgers they yelled back that they were taking one so you knew how many were actually being used, and could adjust the turn up or down to compensate for that particular day’s traffic. If you had the turn too high then you had too many burgers sitting out getting cold. If you had the turn too low then you had angry customers wanting to know why their fast food wasn’t fast. If you have chicken sandwiches on a 3 turn and you hear them yell out three orders for chicken sandwiches you know you better put a few extra on through this cooking cycle or you were going to run out. 3 is actually way too low of a number but you get the idea.

And, when you are back cooking and doing 20 things at once it is actually pretty easy to hear what they are yelling from the front, even if it looks like you aren’t paying attention.

The Burger King near my office does the key-it-in and holler-it-out method. Of course, there’s so much duct tape holding the mike together that it comes out “doba chibur no on no musd”

I asked at the one Wendy’s I’ve ever seen where they do this, and they did it for even regular sandwiches. The cashier told me that it was to promote good communication.

Oh, and at my McDonald’s, the registers aren’t capable of handling very specific requests (like “Put the cheese between the sausage and egg!”), and such, and so we just yell it back.

In Cape Girardeau, Missouri, there is a McDonald’s (actually 12) where the person who is the electronic order taker at the drive in window is actually in a center in Colorado. The order is then forwarded to the front of the store in Mo. and the food is delivered. Talk about a long way to make your point. xo, C.



Back in the late 8-‘s I worked fast food for a while, in a mall. This was before anyone was using screens to show the orders to the kitchen. Yep, we yelled every order to the back, followed by the word "please’, to mark the end of the order.

If it was slow, most sandwiches were made to order. (It was an Arby’s. No frying hamburgers). If it was busy, then there were standard sandwiches being made all the time. Calling those out was just to let the cooks know you were going to take one. Special orders where what they were really listening for.

I once worked at a Pizza Hut where the computer system allowed an order taker to append any message to an order at their discretion. Thus I could add to an any order: “Do as follows:”. Thus I could enter any order, and then say “Ignore it, and instead do this!” I wouldn’t need to talk with anyone in the kitchen.

This is called lousy programming. I couldn’t have done that at the Pizza Hut I worked at without actually running up front and talking to the cook. I wasn’t in yelling distance. Admiitedly, this computer system sucked, and only a few could figure out the command line complexities. However, I could easily design a computer system for McDonalds where “Put the cheese between the sausage and egg!” could be done as a system message. Hmm…maybe not. Does McDonalds have ASCII keyboards? They may use specialized hardware that makes this impossible. For business reasons they may have decided to make special orders difficult. (At this time Pizza Hut sold a product at a premium price, and customer service was a priority. I was a manager. “No Ma’am, I can’t do that” wasn’t an acceptable response.)

Oh, god, I wish we had keyboards. The problem is that the registers are capable of having any 6-character special order message (like PICKLE, MEAT, ONIONS, LETUCE, etc.) on little buttons for all to see, but we can’t program them in. Only the area office, with the owner/operators can program them. Useta be that each store could do it.

Ancient technology has its advantages. I could even do this at the main register. No touch screens or such. Just a ASCII keyboard. If it broke, just toss it and swap in another.

Shouting the orders to the fry guy could be a little tricky if you’re in McDonalds

I was the night manager of an Arby’s in a mall in the late 80’s (cue the Twilight Zone music).

Yup, we yelled every order back. Only difference was we never just cranked out the standards during a rush. Even during Christmas, when it would get completely insane. I made the suggestion many times, but always got some stupid “It’s not policy” - type explanation.

As I said above, they’re actually already doing that. I don’t know why that story just showed up now, but I learned about it in a book that was published earlier this year, so it’s been out there a while. xo, C.