Friday, February 01, 2008

Culver's Served Me Through the Drive Thru

Yesterday, I joined Patrick Hughes, Jr. and Carey Siegel at the Romeoville Culver's to discuss drive thru solutions for fast food restaurants. Patrick is the owner of Inclusion Solutions, a company that provides products for improved access for people with disabilities.

Inclusion Solutions has installed a product called "Order Assist" in 28 Culver's locations.

I decided to experience the drive thru myself, so I arrived a bit early and went through the drive thru. When I pulled up to the speaker, I pushed a large button below a sign that said: "Deaf or Other Communication Barriers? Review menu, Ring BigBell, Pull Forward."

Easy enough. I pushed the bell and went forward. The employee was alerted by the bell and aware that the car coming up needed assistance with an order. She opened the window with a smile and took my order. When she told me I could wait at the window for my order, she included a casual gesture as well. I also had the option of viewing a printed menu and circling items on that or writing down my order on a professional-looking paper that was clipped to a board with a pen.

I went inside to meet with Patrick, Carey and the manager, Ron Dalrymple. They showed me around the restaurant and explained how Order Assist works. Next to every register is a display stand filled with cards and pens so that customers can write down their orders. Employees are quick to switch to written communication when a customer has difficulty understanding them.

"When deaf people come in and see our Order Assist, their eyes light up and they know they are welcomed here," said Ron.

When Patrick first approached Ron about installing the Order Assist at his restaurants, Ron recognized that it was a simple, easy way to provide access to his customers. Culver's has encouraged the other franchise owners to install the Order Assist. There are 28 Culvers locations in six states that feature this access.

How does Order Assist compare to touch-screen menus, I asked?

The answer was a simple one-- fast food restaurants operate on efficiency and speed--touch screens will slow that whole process down. It is also quite expensive to purchase a touch screen and the customer would have difficulty customizing the order.

"This system is so simple," said Patrick. "With this system, and awareness by the employees, customers can be served at the drive thru with ease."

And by the way, Culver's serves shakes!

Can you imagine if every Steak 'n Shake restaurant had the Order Assist in place--drive thrus would be accessible!

22 comments:

K.L. said...

Looks like you need to take that Steak N Shake manager to a Culver's for a little field trip.

bambam0922 said...

Look how something so easy can make things so accessible for a whole population of potential customers! Hopefully Steak N Shake will learn a lesson and see how easy it is to be accessible! I still think that manager needs to be demoted to fry cook though! ha Actually he needs to take some sensibility and accessibility training classes!!!

Sharon said...

This whole situation has been unfair and has certainly wasted your time; yet, I can't help but think how your blog and your posts regarding this have affected so many others. We know that there are numerous clueless folks out there that aren't aware of simple accommodations. Let's assume that Steak N Shake's Mr. Manager is one of them. Take the perspective that although you've been inconvenienced by having to meet with officials etc over this, you're teaching SO MANY PEOPLE about repecting difference and doing what is right.

Phyllis Sommer said...

ooh, i got chills at this post. it must feel so wonderful to be served properly.

we don't have culver's in our neighborhood but when i'm in wisconsin (where they have them) i'm going to make a point to go there and support them.

Anonymous said...

Karen, that sounded like a really good meeting. It might be a good idea, before too much time elapses, to let Steak & Shake know about this Order Assist before they check into the Touch Screen thing; that way, you'd do everyone a favor if what I'm reading about Touch Screens is any indication.

Anyway, best wishes....and thanks

Karen said...

Anonymous,
We had a meeting with the corporate executives and explained that we have some solutions for them. We are waiting for them to get back to us to discuss this further.

Laurie said...

I've never heard of Culver's before but they've got it right! I'm so glad you are stepping forward and bringing deaf awareness to the fast food environment. We need more people like you!

I always say that everything happens for a reason. . .nothing is an accident. I don't think it was an "accident" for you to have a difficult experience at the Steak N Shake. You are turning a negative into a positive with GREAT RESULTS!

Have a great weekend!

Deb Ann said...

YEA! I am so happy that you wrote about Culver's! Why? My oldest daughter's a manager assistant of Culver's in my hometown. A lot of deafies go there and even go through to order. I heard that NAD may have a meeting this summer and one of things on their list is about a device for deaf or communication barriers to be requested for all Fast-food restaurants...they want to pass a law for that. I am not sure if I got it right. I may be wrong.

Abbie said...

I can see the potential in your to be an advocate for us regarding customer service at a majority of restaurants equipped with drive through service, I love this idea! I don't eat at fast food restaurants very often, but I love raspberry ice tea and I have never seen this type of service in Jersey, not once.

Jim said...

We should give an award to Culver's as best business customer service for the deaf year.

Candice said...

We have a Culvers in our town and I don't remember this feature. I am going to have pay extra attention next time I go. Thanks for sharing this great news!!

deaf community said...

Appreciate your sharing.

Candy said...

Culvers don't have that in my area, but they have been gracious with accomodations for deaf people. I will ask the manager here about this device, I think it's cool.

Culvers probably has better shakes than Steak n Shake..but their Lemon Ice is to die for!

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I am Trish Marie said...

Amazingly simple and absolutely perfect! I think this is exactly what other companies need to see. It can be quite simple to be accommodating.

kw said...

We don't have Culvers or Steak and Shake here. I rarely do fast food, except I get fries at a McDonalds near work sometimes. I tell them I can't hear, but they have a reader, so I just yell what I want. I tell them exactly what size. If they ask any questions, I just tell them I can't hear and that's all I want. Because they have a reader, I can see the price with the reader. I never thought of pulling forward to order at the money window before, but my orders are usually simple and straight forward with the reader, because I can see that they've gotten the order right and everything.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Karen,
I love how Culvers gets that their accomodation makes customers feel welcome. I'm wondering if they post that order form online on their website - customers could fill it out ahead of time making the drive thru even faster.
Hooray for Culvers!
Sarah

Karen said...

Sarah,

Culver's actually gives out several copies of their "to go" menu for customers who want to keep extras in their glove compartment and have their menu choices ready for the next time.

Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

How did I miss this?? What a great idea, you are the woman searching for solutions to help others. Amazing...Jodi

Celeste said...

This is great!

Rebecca Davis Winters said...

Many elderly people are also hard of hearing and need consideration in situations like this.

I would also like to note that as a hearing person, I even have a hard time understanding what is said over those drive-thru speakers. I too have been tempted to drive right up to the window. So I can relate even though I am Hearing, and think that restaurants should improve their customer service with some simple accomodations, and lose the lame excuses.

Mr. Sandman said...

This is fantastic! All fast food places should have this installed. I've never heard of Culver's til now, but applaud them for being proactive about this. I'm curious how they decided to do this, though. Were they truly proactive, or did this result occur because of a similar situation to yours?