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Country Drive In adapting well to changes

by Michael Mattison
For 59 years, customers who pull into the Country Drive In are greeted by car hops that place their orders and bring the food out to the cars.
That continues but patrons will note a big change when their order is taken. Gone are the order pads and pens. Those have been replaced by electronics.
Orders are now taken on hand-held devices and then sent to a printer in the kitchen.
“We are so busy and the best way we are able to keep up is by not having to write and add tickets. The hope is that it will also make the training easier for the kids so that they don’t have to learn so much of the abbreviations and shorthand we use because it is all on their handheld device,” said owner Steph Thorsen.
She said it was a bigger adjustment for her and Chanda in the kitchen than it is for young employees. She added that the software company hasn’t seen a menu quite like the Country Drive In as it allows substitutions for everything.
Internet had to be added due to the new ordering system and she is thankful that Winthrop Telephone is working with them and only charging them for the months they are open.
“We appreciate that the customers have been really patient as the girls have a few more steps to get things into the system,” Thorsen said.
Thorsen said they took the leap this year into accepting credit cards. “That’s a tough one for us to swallow when you have to pay the fees all year long and when you are open around 100 days a year, that’s a major undertaking when you are paying and not even open.
There was an unfortunate menu change as well.
“Sadly, the chicken that we have been known for since before I started working here, has been discontinued,” she said. She found out too late and wasn’t able to find a good substitute.
This season, the drive in currently has 20 employees and she expects that will increase to about 24 throughout the summer. Thorsen added that there are usually 6-7 people working on a shift to keep everything moving smoothly. “There is all kinds of magic going on behind the scenes that they don’t see with the two girls running outside,” she said.
This year, Country Drive In opened on May 10. It is open Tuesdays-Sundays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. There will be a few changes to this schedule throughout the year as they will be closed on Saturday, June 3, for GFW Graduation and June 24, as the staff will help celebrate as a 10-year employee is getting married that day. There is no set date for closing for the season.
This is the 14th season that Thorsen has owned Country Drive In and it has been in business for 59 years.
Thorsen said she enjoys that customers and the staff that she has most of all.

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