Fast Food Tries To Get Faster

What do McDonald's and Jack In The Box have in common? No, besides the drive-thru and cheeseburgers. No, besides the creepy mascots. Okay fine, what I was getting at is that both chains are having a come-to-Jesus moment about what's on their menus and how that slows down order times.

Over the past few weeks, McDonald's has made changes to streamline the number of items on its menus. First it reduced the late-night menu, then it nixed the Signature Crafted Burgers, then just this week the company announced it will allow franchisees to choose which items they want to serve as part of the all-day breakfast menu. These changes are partially in response to franchisees' complaints that McDonald's menu had become too large, creating inefficiencies. The menu cuts as well as a pledge to modernize the drive-thru experience—McDonald's has the slowest drive-thru times of major fast-food restaurants—shows the company is committed to speeding up its service.

Jack in the Box finds itself in a similar boat. The struggling chain recently backpedaled on the idea of selling the company, and instead will focus on, well, doing better. A major part of this, Nation's Restaurant News reports, will be a hard look at how to speed up service—probably by paring down the menu.

"We've been our own worst enemy when it comes to speed of service as the breadth of our ever-changing menu has added complexity and prep times in our kitchen," Lenny Comma, Jack in the Box CEO, reportedly said on an investor call yesterday.

He's targeting a one-minute improvement in average service times by the end of 2021. While one minute might not seem like much to a customer, imagine how that compounds, order after order, in a drive-thru line.

While fast food chains have become more diverse in their offerings than they were decades ago—offering salads, vegan options, breakfast, fancy espresso drinks, and more—it's come at a price for some. Putting the fast back in fast food might mean a return to those burger-and-fries roots. It's okay, Jack in the Box, you have my permission to retire the Grilled Chicken Salad.