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Long Waits at Restaurants During Covid-19? What Some Restaurants Could Learn from My Best Buy Experience

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Restaurants are taking more and more precautions to keep their staff safe during this pandemic. Many are working strictly through the drive through. Others are keeping customers and delivery couriers out of the store completely.

I understand the precautions. Some are enforced by the health departments. Some come from corporate mandates. Others are just common sense. If they are going to ask their people to come in and work, it makes sense to do all that is possible to keep those employees safe.

But sometimes it sucks for us who are just trying to pick up food and deliver it.

Food is handed through the drive through window at a fast food restaurant
Food is handed through the drive through window at a fast food restaurant

In normal times, one of the things that makes delivery quick and efficient is being able to go right to the pickup location at a restaurant. Waiting in line is averted. But now, if a courier has to wait in line at a drive through along with the paying customers, that can slow things down dramatically.

And the lines, they're getting longer.

My experience at a Best Buy.

I needed to upgrade my wife adapter to improve some things for running this site (and in fact, this is my first post using that adapter). Best Buy had the one I wanted in stock, so I placed the order. I knew the sales floor was closed but they would let you come pick up your order when placed on line.

When I drove up to the parking area, someone was standing at the entrance, with a sign that said “Check In.” The guy there took my name, called it in over a hand held radio, and he directed me to parking spot number 3. They had the parking spots clearly marked out. I pulled in there, and within a couple of minutes someone came out with my order.

I'm kind of thinking I'd go back to Best Buy more often if they keep doing things like this.

It was quick. It was easy. They were well organized. And it was all done safety with everyone keeping their distance.

And I thought… there's a lot of restaurants that could learn from this.

Taco Bell was the first one in my area, at least what I noticed, to close off their lobby completely after the orders to close down restaurants. I've seen a number of others do this as well.

Personally, I don't like it as a courier. In fact, I'm likely to turn down any delivery from Taco Bell because of it.

Okay, I'll be honest…. I tend to turn down Taco Bell orders anyway. It's never efficient. But now, it's so much worse.

The problem is, this causes issues for both couriers AND customers. Couriers end up waiting in line often for a half hour or worse for food that may have been ready when they arrived. Customers have to wait longer because of all the delivery drivers who are in line.

There's a better way.

As I breezed through the pickup at Best Buy, I was thinking, restaurants should be paying attention to this. Here's a way to handle the call-ins, to get orders distributed efficiently, and shorten the wait for the customers who have to place orders.

You could have someone checking people in as they arrive. If it's a customer wanting to place an order, direct them to the drive through. If it's a courier, or a customer who placed an order on line, direct them to a parking spot. Then they can have a runner who brings the orders out to the waiting cars.

Quick, easy, efficient.

I have to admit, I'm losing faith in the food delivery model through this Pandemic.

I had hoped that somehow the challenge would lead to increased efficiency. Maybe this would force someone to figure out a better way to do things.

So far I don't see that happening.

When the stay at home orders first hit, I was noticing much quicker deliveries. There was less waiting time because we weren't competing with dine-in customers for orders. Parking was a breeze (at the restaurants anyway, in residential areas, that was another story). Traffic was…. it wasn't really traffice, was it? (And still isn't). You could get places quicker. I went from 2.4 deliveries per hour to 2.8. Some days, it was more than 3 per hour.

But it seems as though things are slowing down. More and more are reporting longer waits at the restaurants. Restaurants who used to keep their lobbies open are closing them.

And then there are the issues with closed restaurants. This especially seems to be an issue with Doordash, and isn't much better with Uber Eats. Because the Pandemic has shut down the overseas call centers that some of these companies contracted with, the ones who were not prepared technologically to shift to an at-home work force for order support are left unable to handle calls from customers and couriers.

Instead of one company distancing themselves from the pack, we're seeing the support issues that have always plagued these companies amplified. Delivery companies are seeing a huge increase right now, but I wonder if they won't lose business in the long run because of their failures.

But, if delivery companies aren't going to pick up the slack, maybe some restaurants will?

During the Super Bowl, there was one particular Buffalo Wild Wings that really had their act together. They set up their party room as a staging area for deliveries. It. Was. Awesome.

Will there be a restaurant who will do the same kind of thing with delivery? They'll figure out that the current cluster isn't working and figure out how that it makes sense to route the people coming in ahead of time.

Anyone? Bueller?

Have you seen any innovations by restaurants or stores during this time?

I'd love to hear from you. Have you noticed any stores or restaurants that have just been brilliant in how they worked through the logistical challenges presented by this pandemic? Let me know in the comments, give them a shout out.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

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