Ways to Improve Your Drive-thru – Part 3

This week takes us through 51-75 of Daniel P. Smith’s “100 Ways to Improve Your Drive Thru.”  If you have read the first couple of installments then you know that our opinion differs with Mr. Smith on a number of issues.  However, for the most part, we agreed with the majority and simply offered some additional insights on some of his points.  Let’s see what this week has in store.

Technology continued…

51- Use a modern, high-quality speaker system.

There is no question that one of the biggest inhibitors of turnaround time is the lack of clarity over the speaker system.  If you have a drive-thru and have an antiquated system then it is time to upgrade.  If you are thinking of adding a drive-thru and don’t put in a modern speaker system, you are setting yourself up for failure.

52- Installing noise-reduction technology at the order post minimizes customer angst while improving speed and order accuracy.

This usually isn’t necessary.  As long as you have the speaker in the right position and have a modern system you shouldn’t encounter much noise interference, other than what is going on inside the store.

53- Regularly check the speakers to ensure clarity and volume. Follow maintenance guidelines from the audio supplier.

This is a good point.  Over time it is a good idea to check all levels.  You never know who has put their hands on the equipment.

54- Maintain speaker volume. Loud enough is when a customer doesn’t have to strain or reach to hear.

Remember, there is a fine line.  Some tend to turn their speaker systems up too loud which is equally disturbing.

55- Wrap the speaker post in high-density foam to lessen vibrations and the metal stand’s interior noise.

There is no question that this is an important aspect of the speaker post installation.

56- Introduce a pre-alert loop to indicate a car has entered the drive-thru. This compels staff responsiveness and boosts speed of service.

ALL recent drive-thru installs have this as a part of their general setup.  It is beneath the pavement.  Next time you are at a traffic signal, take a look at the grooves in the pavement.  There are similar loops in the ground that trigger the lights to change.

57- Since the drive-thru is about speed and efficiency, institute timers so staff gauge their ability to process orders.

Timers can be a very effective way to motivate and incentivize employees, however there has to be a balance between speed and accuracy.  As one communication rep once told me, “timers look good on paper but most of the time they become nothing more than an expensive window dressing.”

58- Make certain every employee knows the service-time goals.

The goals should be posted in the employee lunchroom, in the bathrooms and on the flip-side of the wall in the drive-thru area.

59- Use the drive-thru timer’s real-time display and reporting features to track where the restaurant stands and where it needs to go.

Different timers offer different reporting capabilities and can lead you to the bottlenecks that occur both inside and out.  Once those areas are identified, fixing them becomes the tricky part.

60- Use the timer to pinpoint problems as they occur and take the necessary action to keep cars moving.

As stated in 59, finding the areas that are taking the most time is the easy part; however the “necessary action” usually isn’t so obvious.

61- The world’s increasingly going touch screen, which allows customers to customize meals and you to suggest add-on sales.

To make this addition you’d have to assume that everyone coming through your drive-thru is technologically savvy.  This is more appropriate for indoors.  I liken it to the airport; those who are comfortable go to the self-check-in kiosks, and the others go to the counter.  Usually, the line is much less at the kiosks lessening the anxiety caused by people breathing down your neck.  In a drive-thru, there is nowhere to go.  For my money, it is impractical.

62- While some customers clamor for touch screens and restaurants oblige, still affording the customer an option to order by verbal communication respects individual comfort levels.

I am not sure where Daniel has been where a drive-thru doesn’t offer the verbal communication, but I’m curious to know.

63- Headsets and timers can be great tools in accelerating the drive-thru process, but employees must know how to use these items and how they can help them better perform.

Yes, the importance of training and not tossing your employees in to the “lion’s den” is very important.  I remember my first job at a major retail chain.  On my first day I was told to go to a particular department.  When I got there, I found out that I was the ONLY person working in the department.  How much confidence do you think I reverberated towards the customers that day?

64- Integrate paperless payment that is quick and worry-free, such as PayPass or Google Wallet. Frequent studies show customers spend more when purchasing with plastic versus paper.

Love the idea, only one problem, how many people know what PayPass or Google Wallet even are?

65- Many customers use their cell phones while in a drive-thru lane. By providing an incentive for customers, restaurants can build market research with a simple text-in deal.

Being able to capture people’s phone numbers by offering a text-in deal is a good idea.  In doing this a restaurant can capture a market of people that clearly have an interest in the location.  In the future they can send text blasts to those on the list with promotions and specials.  And unlike emails, who doesn’t read a text message?

66- Let the kitchen eavesdrop on orders. If the kitchen staff can hear orders as well, both order accuracy and speed rise.

Sure this can help you get a “jump” on the order but kitchens aren’t the quietest of places.  “What did he say?!?!”  You have to keep this in mind when entertaining this approach.  Computer monitors that display similar to what is on the order confirmation board produces the most accurate orders.

67- Add a timer monitor in the kitchen to allow the entire crew current information on drive-thru traffic.

It goes without saying that the timer should be viewable by everyone involved in the drive-thru operation.

68- An integrated kitchen-management system can provide advance notice of custom builds and, during peak times, capture order information before the kitchen display shows the order.

I am not familiar with this type of system; however I suspect that it takes historical data that suggests you prep certain items in advance to handle the greater volume during peak times.

69- When speed is the expectation, give the drive-thru priority on the POS system.

It depends what type of POS system you have.  Some you have to assign a “pecking order” and some you do not.  If you do, the drive-thru should take precedence.

70- A video-chat ordering system where guests can see the order taker on the screen adds a high-tech and more personal alternative to just audio.

I would not recommend this approach.  Those who take the order are constantly multi-tasking (getting sodas poured, getting sauces, napkins, forks and knives together, bagging the food, etc.).  When would they have time to engage on the screen?

71- Add digital menu boards, which not only indicate the restaurant’s modern ways, but also allow a restaurant to switch menu information in a pinch.

It depends!  Look we are in the digital menu board business and would love to sell digital drive-thrus but there are a few reasons why they haven’t taken off yet.  1) Cost: keep in mind that the LCDs have to have the climate control of a AZ summer and a MN winter.  2) Permits: if you are looking to use digital boards to introduce movement on the screens a lot of towns will require permits.  3) Time: here we go again, if you have things flashing on the screen it will delay the overall turnaround.  4) Vandalism: replacing a piece of plexi is a lot less expensive than an outdoor LCD.

72- Compare car counts between the timer and POS system to detect theft and reduce lost revenue.

If you have a timer, this is an effective way to control shrinkage.

73- Utilize the “intelligent upsell” features on the order-confirmation system for upsells to increase both order size and revenue.

This is a less abrasive way of upselling your customers.  Rather than having the employees deliver the canned upsells, most order confirmation boards deliver these messages in a passive manner.

74- Offering complimentary WiFi to tech-wielding consumers is a modern amenity and compelling perk.

I am not sure why anybody would think to need WiFi as they are driving thru to pick up their meal.  Certainly passengers in the car could take advantage, however what could they accomplish in the 2-10 minutes they are in line?  And, you don’t want drivers surfing the web while trying to pull up to the window anyway!  Inside however, this is a nice feature.

75- Grant customers the ability to place an order ahead of time, by phone or online, and pick it up in the drive-thru lane.

Rather than having them clog the drive-thru lane, have a takeout area of your parking lot.  Applebee’s and Outback come to mind for great “curbside” takeout.  Put the description of the car with the order so that the people inside know what to run out.  It would be wise to have payment in full prior to their arrival via credit card to prevent the back-and-forths once they are there.

Additional Tip from us:  Make QR Codes accessible for scanning when in line to pay or receive your food.  This is when there is a little down time.  When scanned by your cell, the code can take you to a “limited time offer” section of your site.  They could also be used for loyalty programs or for games.  For instance, every time you scan you get a piece of a puzzle, once you have completed the puzzle you get something (worth visiting and scanning for).

My thoughts on 76-100 are coming your way next week, but if you want to share your own thoughts or tell me how ridiculous some of mine are, give us a call today at 888-235-2579!