Industry News | April 25, 2012

Pulling Drive-Thru Experiences Forward

Quick-service restaurants take great strides to refresh their brands and redesign interiors.

Dining rooms immerse guests in brand experiences, but more than 60 percent of guests prefer to receive fast food through the drive-thru.

Big Red Rooster, a multidimensional brand experience firm with quick serve clients such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries, White Castle, Columbus, Ohio-based Piada Italian Street Food, and Chicago-based Tom & Eddie's, identified opportunities to differentiate drive-thru experiences in its latest Point of View (POV) report.

"Although fast food drive-thrus improved operational efficiency over the last four decades, the impersonal, drive-around-back experience remained relatively the same," says Executive Vice President Dan Stanek.

"Big Red Rooster sees the drive-thru as an incredible opportunity to innovate."

Stanek said reimagining and advancing the drive-thru experience will help quick serves connect with guests and build loyalty.

Opportunities highlighted in Big Red Rooster's POV include:

Meeting guests' personalization needs

  • Minimizing visual barriers between drive-thru guests and staff creates opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Incorporating video will increase engagement and humanize the experience.
  • Open-view windows give drive-thru guests a better look inside. Allowing them to see signs of life, such as the cook staff in action, builds trust.
  • Smartphone technology can enable preorder/prepay capabilities, support loyalty programs and store menu preferences, creating a customized experience.

Catering to the mobile (in-car) dining experience

  • On-the-go drive-thru guests prefer to stay in their automobiles and get back on the road. Auto-friendly packaging, such as lap trays or containers that fit into standard cup holders, makes unwrapping, securing and eating food easier.
  • QSRs can retain guests through designated "park and eat" spaces. Extending WiFi into the parking lot, providing a branded radio station or offering guest-controlled television screens enhance the experience.
  • A vending machine filled with on-the-go items, such as stain removers or gum, showcases that restaurants understand mobile diners' needs.

Shifting for societal changes

  • Urban living will gain traction as Baby Boomers downsize from suburban homes and gravitate toward walkable communities. Walkup windows can accommodate on-the-go walking and biking guests, and bike racks provide added convenience.
  • As the population develops strong commitments to sustainable lifestyles, the idea of what constitutes a good neighborhood changes. QSRs can communicate neighborhood involvement through an electronic bulletin board. This board could announce community events and promote wellness programs.
  • Providing electric car charging stations and placing recycling receptacles along the drive-thru path highlight environmental consciousness.

"QSRs need to evaluate their drive-thru experiences and create touchpoints that support their brands," Stanek says.

"Drive-thru solutions can be as varied and unique as the QSRs that choose to pull forward."

Visit bigredrooster.com to view the full report.

Founded in 2002 by Martin Beck and Aaron Spiess, Big Red Rooster (www.bigredrooster.com) is a multidimensional brand experience firm that creates the touchpoints, environments, communications, products and services of tomorrow.