As full-service restaurants strive for greater speed in delivering orders , and fast-food restaurants move into the more lucrative territory of higher priced salad and sandwich fare , the lines are getting blurry on where one category stops and the other starts.
But one thing is certain: restaurants in both segments are taking big steps to speed up their service and efficiency.
McDonald’s, for instance, while expanding its menu to include more salads, is experimenting with an off-premises call center that takes drive-through orders. The idea is to speed up the line by limiting the person at the window to two jobs , accepting money and handing out food , instead of three, including order taking, as before.
Last week, a 2-year-old San Diego-based firm, SpeedEOrder, LLC, announced it has received a patent pending notice for its online ordering and payment service for restaurants.
The system allows restaurant patrons to place and pay for their orders to any of an array of restaurants via the online Web site, www.speedeorder.com, and pay with a credit or debit card. They may also phone in their orders by using a toll-free number with an automated response.
The customer is given a pickup time for their order, based on a set standard for how long it takes to prepare a particular menu item or items. Once at the restaurant, they flash a picture ID at a specific pickup station, grab their grub and go, said Joe Rollinson, SpeedEOrder’s chief executive officer, adding that it saves them at least 15 minutes of waiting time vs. the traditional human interaction of ordering “to-go” food in person.
“They can be getting their ID out of their wallet on the way in,” Rollinson said. “The two most time-consuming points of a transaction are the ordering and payment.”
For such service, customers may expect to pay a 7 percent fee on all orders. The participating restaurants , of which there are currently about 18 in the county , also pay a fee. But Rollinson declined to be specific on the amount, saying only that it is slightly more than they’d pay for any standard credit card transaction.
Rollinson’s customers include a variety of franchised outlets of major chain restaurants and one corporate outlet of the San Diego-based Pat & Oscar’s Restaurant chain in Carmel Valley.
“We are constantly looking for quicker ways to connect our guests with their meals and recognized that SpeedEOrder could benefit our lunch guests in particular,” said John Wright, the president of Pat & Oscar’s.
Other restaurant clients include franchised owners of McDonald’s, Submarina, Quiznos, Samurai Sam’s, Simon’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Krispy Kreme and San Tropez Bakery & Bistro.
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Local Specialty Brewer Delivers On A Tall Order:
Statistics show that Americans are guzzling more American-made specialty, or “craft,” brews and fewer imports. And a San Marcos specialty brewer, Stone Brewing Co., is at the head of that trend.
According to a Colorado-based trade group, the Brewers Association, small specialty brewers sold 7 percent more beer in 2004 than they did in 2003 , making the category the fastest growing segment of the U.S. alcoholic beverage industry.
Last year, Stone Brewing Co. sold 34,000 barrels of beer, 31 percent more than in 2003, which surpasses the overall rate for its craft brewer competitors, said Greg Koch, the company’s chief executive officer. There are 31 gallons of beer in a barrel, and one barrel equates to roughly 13.7 cases.
Figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that sales of imported beer in the United States increased by 1.4 percent to 4.6 million cases in 2004 vs. 2003. While craft beer accounts for only 3.2 percent of the marketplace for beer, with imports accounting for 11 percent, craft beer sales increased by 6.3 million cases in 2004 vs. 2003, 1.78 million more than imports.
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