Ways to Improve Your Drive-thru – Part 2

Last week I gave you my thoughts on #1-25 of Daniel Smith’s article “100 Ways to Improve Your Drive Thru.” This week I’ll take a look at #25-50.  Similar to the first batch, there are certain suggestions that I don’t agree with. However, my opinion is merely that. Going through each item and being able to think about how it would affect your given location is what is most important.  So take a read and let me know your thoughts.

Management continued…

26- Hire for personality. Engaging, articulate, and naturally pleasant personalities are specifically effective in the drive-thru.

There seems to be a lot of head trash nowadays about the responsibility, dependability, and professionalism of the younger generation.  In fairness I have encountered this first hand myself.  What I found is that if you take the time to find the right people (no matter what their age) rather than trying to plug holes, you’ll find those with the characteristics above.

27- Train the talent. With speed and accuracy essential, thorough training enhances drive-thru efficiency. Drive-thru staff must know the ins and outs of both the menu and the drive-thru operation.

Yes, of course training is important. What is equally important is cross-training. Have each employee work different parts of the entire restaurant, not just the drive-thru. This way they will understand the importance each area has on the other.

28- Make the drive-thru positions coveted spots. With greater responsibility, provide a greater reward, such as a higher wage.

This is fine if you view the drive-thru as the heartbeat of your business. Keep in mind the drive-thru tends to be much more transactional and impersonal than the face-to-face interaction at the counter.

29- Go off site. With a singular focus on sales and accuracy, outsourced order-taking staffers receive thorough training, including upselling and add-on sales strategies.

This is being seen more and more. The orders are actually being taken by someone “off-site” so that the staff can focus solely on producing an accurate order. You have to be careful with this.  Going “off-site” could cause a lot of confusion if someone disputes what they received in the bag.

30- Given the business a drive-thru produces, it cannot (and should not) be an afterthought. From design to staffing, give it the best.

We have talked a lot about this in the past.  The decision to have or add a drive-thru should not be taken lightly.  There is a decent investment that would have to be made but it usually does become your greater revenue stream. However, you should never think that a drive-thru will fix the fact that you are struggling at the “turnstiles.”

31- Appoint a troubleshooting staff member who is capable of stepping in wherever necessary to fix drive-thru issues.

I am not too sure if Daniel is referring to issues pertaining to order inaccuracies or technical issues. If the former, the point person should always be the Manager on duty. The latter would be the communications or drive-thru company you worked with.

32- Cross-train staff. As much as specialization has a purpose, team members who can understand and fill multiple drive-thru roles increase efficiency.

Completely agree and addressed this in #27.

33- For multi-store operations, consolidate speed-of-service data from multiple stores into a single database to quickly identify problems.

Not only will this approach help you identify problems, it will also help you identify efficiencies. Perhaps one location stacks 3 cars between the drive-thru and window and the other stacks 2.  How does that impact the speed?

34- Brainstorm improvement ideas with the drive-thru crew.

This is an example of empowering the employees. Everybody likes to have their voice heard and feel like they are contributing to something.  Also, you just may get an idea that takes your operation to the next level.


Drive Through Menu BoardsLook and Feel

35- From litter on the ground to hazy windows, dirty and ill-maintained drive-thrus negatively impact consumer confidence.

Yes, general maintenance and cleanliness is encouraged.

36- Not only do well-lit areas allow guests to better read menu boards and instill a sense of safety, but brightness has a positive impact on people.

You can also add to this that each of our driving skills varies.  The more lit, curbed and lined a drive-thru is will help drastically decrease the potential of bumps and scrapes along the whole drive-thru lane.

37- Maximize the distance of Dumpsters and exterior bathrooms from the drive-thru lane to limit unpleasant odors.

Yes, dumpsters should be placed in the deepest darkest corner of your lot, but I hope you didn’t need Daniel and I to tell you that.

38- Signage should be easy to read and non-cluttered. Resist any urge to post paper notes.

This falls on the graphic design of the drive-thru.  Some choose the full graphic approach and others choose strips and digits. In both cases, the last thing you want on your drive-thru is a short story novel for people to sift through. This would negatively impact your turn around time.

39- Ensure the menu board reflects current pricing and menu items.

Misinformation is one of the surest ways to slow down your drive-thru traffic. “I am sorry, that is no longer available.” Further, your customers would be less than pleased if they got a surprise with their total.  They want to know what they are getting and for how much.

40- Clean the menu board. Make it shine.

This takes us back to general cleanliness. Yes, perception is a reality. People are more comfortable getting and eating food from a crisp, clean environment.

41- Many operations experts suggest keeping only the top 80 percent of items sold on the menu board, which helps to simplify the signage.

Of the top 80 percent, there are probably some items that are not the most profitable.  Conversely, there are probably some items you would like to sell more of because they put more money in your pocket.  Do not hesitate to mix a few of these in.  Remember, at a drive-thru you have the most captive of captive audiences.  Also, you may want to include those items with the quickest prep time.

42- Enhance visibility by having lights directly on the menu board after sundown. A customer who can’t discern the menu is likely to order less or leave.

I am a little bit iffy about this one.  There should certainly be some ancillary lighting in and around the drive-thru area, but directly on it?  Have you ever tried watching a TV with the glare of the sun bearing down?  Most, if not all, true drive-thrus are lit and should provide ample lighting for reading.

43- Drive-thrus often allow customers a look into behind-the-counter operations as they await their order. A clean restaurant inspires confidence.

Sure, although personally, when I look inside I am wondering “is that bag for me, or someone else?”

44- Install a trashcan with an extended chute next to the lane, a simple product customers universally value.

I actually made use of one just the other day. I was waiting in line and had some old receipts and paperwork and did a little Fall cleaning while I was in line.  It was great!

45- Clear and bright lane striping ensures a professional look and clearly defines the drive-thru space for cars and dine-in customers.

Yes, and as I stated in #36 it helps the drivers stay on course.

46- Installing canopies over the menu boards makes signage easier to read in bright sunlight and keeps customers dry in bad weather.

Canopies are nice to have but unless they achieve exactly what is being said above, you’ll have paid a good amount of money for an eye sore.

47- Recognize that visitors to the drive-thru gain an up-close look at the establishment, from tuck-pointing to landscaping. Breed confidence with beautification projects that clean up your lane and show pride of ownership.

Again, maintaining a professional environment both inside and out invokes comfort in your customers and welcomes them to your location.

48- Use an antifog solution to fight the collection of fog on signage glass.

If the right drive-thru is chosen, fog should not be an issue.  The combination between seals and ventilation should prevent this from happening.


49- Use an order-confirmation screen. Providing the customer a visual rundown of the items ordered and the final total helps certify accuracy. Better yet, an order-confirmation screen is routinely cited as one of the top drive-thru improvements consumers want to see.

It is hard to argue with this point. You’d be hard pressed to find any customer who doesn’t prefer to see what they are ordering. Just be sure that what is appearing on the screen makes sense.  As one blogger commented:

A lot of times, the system will send out codes that make no sense… “TxWpr Meal -Mu + Ma” — do you know what that is? I do, because it’s my order at BK – but would anyone else? Spell it out. “Texas Whooper, No Mustard, add Mayo”

50- For those with an order-confirmation screen, enter items into the drive-thru’s POS terminal as the customer orders. The real-time reporting allows customers to make corrections quickly.

Typically the order confirmation screen is a function of the POS and vise-Versa meaning that, as the order is being entered, it should appear on the screen in real time.

Additional Tip from us: If you haven’t already, be sure to use wireless headsets for the drive-thru operation.  The old, antiquated intercom systems prevent multitasking and requires someone to “man the post” thus slowing down your thru rate.

My thoughts on 51-75 are waiting in the wings, but if you have read both the article and this blog and have some questions, contact us here or give us a call at 888-235-2579!