While it's not as simple as one ... two ... three, the addition of another drive-through window at the Greencastle McDonald's is much more than a move toward speed and efficiency.
It represents a new concept for the fast-food giant, and only 10 of its 31,000 restaurants worldwide are testing out the idea.
The McTerm for it is "Fast Forward," and Greencastle customers can expect to see it in action beginning this weekend.
Bobby Hopper, area supervisor for Jedele Enterprises -- which owns the Greencastle store along with others in Cloverdale, Crawfordsville, Hazelwood, Mooresville and more -- campaigned for the local restaurant's inclusion as a test location for the third-window concept.
"Only a handful of stores in the United States are testing this window," Hopper said this week as construction continued along the east side of the building.
The first testing began in Romeoville, Ill., and Hopper himself visited that McDonald's to see the operation in action. He came away impressed enough to lobby corporate bigwigs to include his flagship restaurant in Greencastle in the test.
"We had to fight for it, and we got it," he said, noting that McDonald's corporate has installed cameras and microphones that can be monitored by staff in Illinois as the testing progresses.
"The purpose of 'Fast Forward' drive-through is in the method of moving cars to build capacity and taking care of our guests more efficiently," Hopper explained. "We will serve more customers by pulling cars forward when appropriate, thus increasing capacity and moving drive-through lines faster for each of our guests."
Additional menu items and more complicated customer orders have combined to tax the tried-and-true two-window drive-through, Hopper said.
Statistics bear that out. The average Greencastle drive-through visit is less than two minutes from ordering to delivery. However, throw in a couple of specialty drinks from the McCafe and those numbers are skewed. The drinks themselves can take up to two minutes to make.
Thus, if you've ordered a burger, fries and a drink, but the guy in front of you wants three iced coffees or espressos, a back-up occurs, and in reality, you're waiting on his order.
"Why do we pull forward?" Hopper asked. "To remove bottlenecks in drive-through, which increases capacity. When do we pull? Immediately if food is not ready and the car behind it is ready."
Another aspect of the project is that the third window is monitored by an outside camera to show who is waiting, and an inside computer screen that flashes "hold" orders so they are not lost in the fast-food shuffle.
"It's about accountability," Hopper reasoned. "You are actually still in line and you're not forgotten. Instead of moving to the curb without being able to communicate with someone, there will be a friendly face, which brings me comfort as a guest."
Construction of the third window has been undertaken by Jeff Oliver and CFH Enterprises, a McDonald's-approved contractor from Knightstown. The work has included creation of a separate hallway feeding into the exit at the northeast corner of the building.
Any pull-forward orders will be taken out that door by a designated runner, eliminating "the lobby situation," as Hopper calls it.
Previously orders waiting at the curb were carried out through the lobby and dining room, exposing the waiting customer's food to other diners as well as risking additional hold-ups if dining room customers stop the McDonald's employee to ask a question or request anything from ketchup to a refill of their coffee.
"Instead, your order will go right from the prep area to you," Hopper said, noting the emphasis on safety and security.
"It not just about orders that aren't ready," he added, "but also the possibility of serving two people at the same time.
"It's just amazing how much faster having that third window moves cars through the drive-through," Hopper said, recalling his seeing-is-believing trip to Romeoville.
It's easy to see the drive-through is a huge portion of the local McDonald's business. Statistically, the local store annually does 72 percent of its business through the drive-through.
For January, 71 percent of the store's business came through the drive-through, Hopper reported, meaning 36,463 of a total 51,448 transactions came from visiting vehicles.
And that came during a month in which the store closed early twice due to construction.
The new window has cost the restaurant a few seats, going from 74 to 62 to accommodate the project.
But more construction is coming, and with it a remodeling of the 12-year-old building at Indianapolis Road and Percy Julian Drive.
After 60 days of gathering data under the new three-window system, Hopper expects construction to begin on a project that will boost seating capacity to 96 by bumping the front of the facility out 30 feet to the north.
The work is expected to take 8-12 weeks, finishing up in June or July. McDonald's won't close during the project except for brief periods when the water or electricity must be turned off.
The project will also include expanded storage space, more parking and a pass-through lane to the west of the building (by filling in the retention pond). The new decor (similar to the new McDonald's on the west side of Plainfield) will feature more earth tones and a "coffeehouse atmosphere" with added electrical outlets to make it user-friendly for the computer crowd.
"The reality is," Hopper pointed out, "that we don't have to do any of that. But Bob (owner Jedele) feels the Greencastle community has been so faithful in its support and so good to us that he wants to enhance the customer experience for them.
"That third window will allow us to take care of presenting the order to each guest faster and more efficiently,'' Hopper added. "This window project is not a McDonald's requirement. This is a test that we asked to do to take care of our guests.
"We are very excited to be able to provide cutting-edge technology in our small city where you only usually see this type of technology in the bigger cities."