I don't know about the McDonald's related to this thread, but on the subject of using call centers to take drive-thru fast food orders, it appears the concept has been in use for quite a while.
July 2004 New York Times story
Pull off Interstate 55 near Cape Girardeau, Mo., and into the drive-through lane of a McDonald's next to the highway and you'll get fast, friendly service, even though the person taking your order is not in the restaurant - or even in Missouri. The order taker is in a call center in Colorado Springs
, more than 900 miles away, connected to the customer and to the workers preparing the food by high-speed data lines. Even some restaurant jobs, it seems, are not immune to outsourcing.
In the fast-food business, time is truly money: shaving even five seconds off the processing time of an order is significant. Mr. Bigari said he had cut order time in his dual-lane drive-throughs by slightly more than 30 seconds, to about 1 minute, 5 seconds, on average. That's less than half the average of 2 minutes, 36 seconds, for all McDonald's, and among the fastest of any franchise in the country, according to QSRweb.com, which tracks such things. His drive-throughs now handle 260 cars an hour, Mr. Bigari said, 30 more than they did before he started the call center.
March 2005 blog posting :
The rumor I heard was that McDonalds would be outsourcing the job of taking orders at the drive-thru window to some company in North Dakota, because the minimum wage in North Dakota is only $5.15, whereas it's higher in other states, so they figure they can save some money. In other words, you could be going through a drive-thru in San Diego and giving your order to some guy in North Dakota. They claim that when employees have to take orders over the drive-thru mic and deliver food at the same time, they start making a lot of mistakes. So this is just an effort to make the system more efficient.
March 2005 - CBS News - Outsourcing Drive Thru? :
CBS News Radio Correspondent Lou Miliano reports the strategy is based on the theory that mistakes come from the order-taker, not the cook line. Sending orders directly to a call center and back to the grill could also allow McDonald's employees to focus on delivering better customer service, the company said.
November 2005 Oregon Live story at MetaFilter :
Fourteen McDonalds in Oregon and southeastern Washington have been linked to the call center operated by SEI-CCS Inc., a Fargo, N.D. -based company that works closely with McDonald's. The call taker in Grand Forks enters your order into a computer and relays it back to the home restaurant, where it pops up on a screen in the kitchen. Meanwhile, a digital camera photographs your car as you drive through. The photo pops up on a separate screen next to the order at the drive-through cashier's window to match the order with the car. A total of 50 McDonald's are expected to be on line within a few months, including seven more of Adams' restaurants and five in the Portland area, he said.
April 2006 - New York Times - The Long-Distance Journey of a Fast-Food Order
What made the $12.08 transaction remarkable was that the customer was not just outside Ms. Vargas's workplace here on California's central coast. She was at a McDonald's in Honolulu. And within a two-minute span Ms. Vargas had also taken orders from drive-through windows in Gulfport, Miss., and Gillette, Wyo.
November 2006 Boston Globe story :
When Jairo Moncada pulled up to the drive-through at Wendy's in Burbank, Calif., for his usual cheeseburger, fries, and soda, he knew things looked different. There was an extra lane. But the 25-year-old could not see the biggest change: The woman taking his lunch order was sitting 3,000 miles away at a computer terminal in Nashua, and fielding calls from Wendy's customers at drive-throughs as far away as Florida and Washington, D.C.
The Burbank store is one of several Wendy's restaurants around the country that have been testing the concept, and franchisees plan to expand to at least 200 stores by next spring because the initial tests are so promising. Other fast-food companies, including Burger King, Panda Express, and McDonald's, have also started routing drive-through calls to remote locations to get faster and more accurate orders and let in-store employees concentrate on making food, keeping the store clean, and ringing up sales.
But Fritton eventually agreed to fly to Colorado and sit for an hour in a rival's parking lot and see what the technology could do. He watched car after car zoom through a McDonald's drive-through at a rate he'd never seen -- more than 125 cars during lunch hour. At the time, Fritton's stores were doing about 85 cars an hour during lunchtime.
"Using call centers allows us to provide a high level of service and be able to do that from a remote location in an environment where the crew can be much more comfortable," Don Thompson , president of McDonald's USA, said in a recent interview. "What it allows us to do is to use the same crew person who was taking orders to go out to be much more hospitable to guests."