McDonald's or Chick-fil-A? Soon you may have to publicly declare allegiance

There's a new technological way of speeding up drive-thru orders. It comes, though, with a certain cost.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Everyone has habits they prefer to keep secret.

Some habits you just want to keep to yourself because, well, they're yours. In the case of other habits, you're simply afraid of what someone might say.

I'm driven to considering this dilemma on learning about the Fly-Thru Drive-Thru.

No, this isn't an airborne fast food emporium -- though wouldn't that be precisely what America needs right now?

Instead, the Fly-Thru Drive-Thru is, according to its creators at AdvanTech, a "simple new solution" that's "enhancing the drive-thru without adding operational complexity."

"What's not to force you into lovin' it?" I hear you cry. And I completely understand.

According to AdvanTech, this RFID-based technology speeds up drive-thru service by 40% and "ultimately" increases sales by between 10 and 20%.

Naturally, the effectiveness is embedded in a little-known, alleged fact: 90% of drive-thru customers order the same thing every time.

Yes, that's how dull we are. That's how painfully predictable and illuminatingly unimaginative. Or just tired, of course.

Fast food can be so very easy, filling and tasty. Deeply unhealthy, too.

You'll be wondering, however, whether the Fly-Thru Drive-Thru may have a catch.

Well, it works in the same way a toll booth works. The Zebra RFID technology remembers your order and recognizes you as soon as you approach. This allows for swifter order-taking and greater ease in upselling.

It doesn't, claim the creators, store your "sensitive customer information." Such as the fact that you order two Big Macs for yourself every time?

I apologize, but I've been avoiding the possibly contentious part.

AdvanTech explains: "A customer's order is programmed into a branded decal that is placed on their windshield or dashboard."

As one can see from the company's promotional video, it seems you have to publicly declare your allegiance to your favorite burger joint by, well, displaying it. That's quite a statement.

Perhaps, of course, this could be removed and restuck. Modern humans are, though, inherently lazy. Therefore, I suspect they'll just have the decal stuck to their windshield permanently to be ready for whenever nature calls them to their McDonald's, Burger King or Chick-fil-A.

You, too, may already be wondering what a branded McDonald's decal would look like on the windshield of a fine Jaguar or a pristine Audi.

Moreover, would it deter a potential car thief if they discovered you were a committed Burger King or Chick-fil-A eater? Conversely, would it encourage them if you were Big Mac all the way?

And what if your car isn't adorned with any fast food decal? Will that single you out as some sort of un-American?

People can be very precious about their cars. So while I wouldn't question the efficacy of AdvanTech's claims, I still worry because that's what I do.

Of course, all the major fast-food companies are busily buying up tech companies to speed their processes. (And, naturally, reduce the employee numbers they need.)

This has been especially significant during COVID-19, as drive-thru has constituted, along with delivery, the vast majority of revenue.

McDonald's, for example, is testing its own AI-driven drive-thru, using voice-recognition software, and it seems a touch impersonal.

Taco Bell is even raising its kitchens a whole floor at a Minnesota restaurant to allow for four drive-thru lanes and a chute that sends your food down to your car.

I wonder how many fast food concerns will go for Fly-Thru Drive-Thru.

Though AdvanTech claims otherwise, I still worry that future developments in technology will lead to the fast food experience becoming one big, ugly vending machine.

I'm not sure that's the best way to build truly loyal customers.

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