How to Improve Drive-Thru Speed and Efficiency

How to Improve Drive-Thru Speed and Efficiency

Sep 01, 2021

How speedy is your drive-thru service? The answer can have a significant impact on the profitability of your QSR (quick-service restaurant) as well as your ability to succeed in a competitive environment. Restaurants generate up to 70% of their sales through the drive-thru and that number is steadily growing as more customers want their food on the go! Increasing your drive-thru speed provides happier customers and your ability to serve more of them, ensuring increased revenue and profitability in your restaurant.

There are a variety of ways to improve drive-thru speed of service; here is a list of 25 ways to help improve the speed and efficiency in your restaurant’s drive-thru lane.

  1. Use Easy to Read Menus: Making sure that your menu is easy to read and well-lit helps customers to easily review the menu and make decisions faster. Canopies can also make signage easier to read in bright sunlight. Digital menu boards are becoming the new standard for a slew of reasons but one of their best features is the ability to rotate options or to make them easier to display graphics to make the menu easier to read for customers. Many operation experts also suggest displaying only 80% of menu items to simplify the signage.
  2. Easy to Use POS System: A good POS system will make it quick and easy for service attendees to create and adjust orders, especially when entering custom changes to orders.
  3. Double Check Order Accuracy: As a standard policy, service attendees should double check orders are accurate before passing to customers to avoid delays caused by errors and forgotten items.
  4. Incorporate a Shelf in Front of your Drive-Thru Window: A shelf can provide contactless service delivery while also providing a space to place ready orders while service attendees can multitask and either prepare the rest of a customer order or take the next customers order to improve throughput.
  5. Use a High-Quality Communication System: Ensuring that your staff is using high quality headsets and a quality speaker system in the drive-thru will ensure the customer and service attendee can hear each other clearly and avoid errors caused by miscommunication which can cause further delays. Regularly check speakers to ensure clarity, that there is ample volume and ensure the suggested maintenance is performed per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  6. Include an Order Summary and Confirmation Screen: Confirming a customers order upon ordering will avoid unnecessary issues and delays when the order is picked up. It is also faster to request the customer to review the order on the screen than to read back the order.
  7. Develop an App for Customers to Order Ahead: An app allows customers to order ahead so there’s no time wasted in line reading the menu and evaluating options in the drive-thru lane.
  8. Incorporate Multiple Drive-Thru Windows and / or Pick-up Only Window Incorporate a window for pick-up orders only for delivery drivers and customers who have ordered in advance online or through the app to increase speed of service.
  9. Incorporate a Passerby Lane in the Drive Thru: Using a second lane will allow those customers who have already picked up their order to leave or allow access to a pick-up only window which will alleviate unnecessary waiting in the drive-thru lane.
  10. Incorporate Multiple Drive-Thru Lanes: More high-volume restaurants are incorporating multiple drive-thru lanes to provide faster throughput in their restaurant.
  11. Advanced or Touchless Payment Options: Paying in advance for orders online, through an app or providing touchless payment options avoid unnecessary waiting in the drive-thru lane. Paying by cash is the slowest payment method given the amount of time to count and provide payment as well as any return change that is required. Studies also show that customers purchase more when they pay via card instead of cash.
  12. Use an Automatic Drive-Thru Window: An automatic ‘touchless’ drive-thru window allows servers to safely, seamlessly and quickly pass items through to customers without the delay and the interaction required to manually open or close the window.
  13. Provide an Array of Order Pick-up Options for Customers: Walk-up windows, curbside delivery and storage lockers are all alternate methods for customers to pick-up orders and can help mitigate bottlenecks in the drive-thru lane.
  14. Use Ghost or Dark Kitchens: A ghost kitchen can help handle some of the order volume and bottleneck in your drive-thru lane by providing an alternate location to provide orders for delivery drivers.
  15. Be Prepared & Keep Fully Stocked: At the beginning of every shift, ensure your drive-thru is fully stocked with napkins, condiments, utensils, straws, lids, etc. This will alleviate the need for re-stocking while customers are waiting.
  16. Projected Drive-Thru Windows Provide Convenient Shelf Space: One of the best benefits of projected windows is that they provide a place to store items that require quick access for every order (napkins, straws, condiments, utensils etc.) and stock prepared orders for faster order delivery.
  17. Runners: High volume restaurants are more commonly using runners to take and deliver orders to increase speed of service and throughput during peak periods. There are even hybrid Walk-Thru Drive-Thru Windows becoming available which can serve as a window to serve customers in their car through a window and a full-size door opening for runners to enter and exit the drive-thru lane.
  18. Assigned Parking Stalls for Delayed or Larger Volume Orders: To avoid bottlenecks in the drive-thru incorporate designated parking stalls where orders can be delivered to avoid further delays for your other customers in the drive-thru lane.
  19. Focus on Training: Training is essential to ensure speed and accuracy. Knowing the menu and the processes to serve customers will ensure all customers are served in a timely and efficient manner.
  20. Time Order Delivery: Timing the speed of service for every order will allow you to establish benchmarks and service time goals while allowing you to measure how changes to processes impact your service delivery efficiency. You should also ensure all employees are aware of the established service time goals.
  21. Use a Pre-Alert Loop: This will notify employees that a customer has entered the drive thru to ensure prompt service and increase speed of service.
  22. Incorporate Proximity Notifications: Modern technology will notify restaurants when customers are near the restaurant to appropriately prioritize orders, ensure orders are ready upon customer arrival and avoid unnecessary wait times for customers.
  23. Leveraging your Timer: Use your timer to identify and resolve issues as they arise to avoid longer delays for customers.
  24. Prioritize Drive-Thru Orders: Since speed and convenience is the objective for customers in the drive-thru lane, prioritize these orders in the POS system.
  25. Ensure Clear and Proper Signage is Posted: From the entrance of the drive-thru to location of the menu to where to place your orders to the location of the pickup window- clear and visible signage will ensure customers know where to proceed in the ordering process to avoid confusion and delays. It also makes for a better customer experience.

As drive-thrus become a more critical aspect of service delivery in quick serve restaurants and the market becomes more competitive, the speed at which customers can be served will become an important deciding factor for customers in their decision as to where to eat. Quikserv is proud to be the market leader for drive-thru and walk-up windows, through which restaurants are serving 70% of their business. If you’re looking for options in a drive-thru window that will help you improve speed of service or fit with the design objectives for your drive-thru lane, please contact one of our sales representatives and we will be happy to assist you.


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