I was flipping through this week’s eWeek and discovered a fascinating article on outsourcing. According to the article, the new trend to watch is “shared sourcing,” where you partner with someone and have them handle pieces of your business, without handing over everything. The example given is kind of amazing–they’ve outsourced the drive-through lane at some McDonalds:

Customers arriving at one of the 11 McDonald’s franchises run by Bigari Food Enterprises in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota have a variety of ways to order their burgers and fries. The drive-through lanes are handled by a Bigari-run remote call center (located in the United States) that uses voice over IP and digital photos to link inventory and the food preparer to make sure the right burger ends up with the right customer. Orders can also be placed from the children’s play area, from phones at in-restaurant tables, from cell phones or via the traditional walk-up method. Sales have increased and mistakes have decreased at those McDonald’s stores.

Okay, it’s not exactly outsourced; the McDonalds franchise owns the call center as well as the restaurants, but you should be able to see the writing on the wall. Who thought that McDonalds employees would have to worry about having their jobs shipped overseas?

Getting past the paranoia, though, it’s a fascinating way to improve an age-old business model. It’ll be interesting to see how this spreads. Cheap, ubiquitous communications changes a lot of old assumptions.