Quote of the Day: Western Civ and the Drive-Thru Window

| Sat May 7, 2011 2:19 PM EDT

From Karl Taro Greenfeld, writing in Bloomberg Businessweek:

It's as if the great advances of human civilization, in everything from animal husbandry to mathematics to architecture to manufacturing to information technology, have all crescendoed with the Crunchwrap Supreme, delivered via the pick-up window.

The rest of the story is all about how Taco Bell — which is headquartered just down the road from me — has revolutionized its drive-through business over the past ten years or so. Still, this part is a little dispiriting:

The program was so successful that in 2009 the brand was the first to finish in the top five in QSR magazine's Drive-Thru Performance Study in both speed and accuracy, averaging 164 seconds per vehicle with an accuracy rate of 93.1 percent...."They [i.e., the entire fast-food industry] have gotten to a place where it is probably as fast and accurate as it is going to be," says Blair Chauncey, of QSR magazine. "We got to the point where they were separated by a few seconds and everyone's accuracy was above 90 percent. Everyone has gotten so good." We are all of us, right now, living in the golden age of drive-thru.

So that's that. The pinnacle of Western achievement is an accuracy rate of about 90%, and it's not getting any better. That means that your order is going to be screwed up one time in ten when you go through a drive-through lane. I guess we'll have to wait for Star Trek-style food replicators in order to see further improvements.

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