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!