Ordering | October 2011 | By Daniel P. Smith

100 Ways to Improve Your Drive Thru

Tips to better the efficiency and experience in your lane today.

Customer Service

1 From the full order of food and beverages to the utensils, provide the customer with everything he needs the first time. Frustrations arise when something is forgotten.

2 Mistakes happen; it’s inevitable. In the event of an inaccurate order, correct the error by embracing responsiveness, responsibility, and action.

3 Greet with a friendly, enthusiastic, two-part greeting. “Welcome to Burger Palace. May I take your order?”

4 “Please” and “thank you” spark feelings of appreciation and build loyal customers.

5 Direct drive-thru staff to share sincere smiles and make eye contact with guests.

6 People love their dogs, and distributing canine treats (although not alongside human food) can be a simple effort to distinguish your operation.

7 Who wants to eat a salad by hand or use his dry-cleaning receipt as a napkin? Provide the appropriate amount of napkins, utensils, and condiments.

8 With simple words, such as “Thanks for coming. We’ll see you again soon,” staff plants the seeds of a return visit in a customer’s mind.

9 Customers are clamoring for healthier options in the quick-service sector, so showcase items that incorporate a healthy message.

10 Place the order post as close to the customers as possible to enhance the ease of two-way communication.

11 Offer breakfast. According to Technomic’s 2009 Breakfast Consumer Trend Report, 22 percent of consumers named the availability of drive-thru service as one of the top three reasons they visit their preferred breakfast restaurant.

12 Greet the customer within five seconds of the car stopping at the order post.

13 Drive-thru staff should start the ordering process rather than relying on guests to initiate the order.

14 As much as the drive thru is about speed, allow guests time to review the menu should they need that opportunity. Be patient and say, “Please order when ready.”

15 Using “what” questions encourages upselling. For example, “What would you like to drink with your cheeseburger?” The alternative, “Would you like a drink today?” fails to invite a drink purchase in the same way.

16 A simple sign that thanks guests for their business as they pull away completes the process in an appreciative way.

17 When receiving money from guests, say, “Thank you.” Today’s customers have innumerable options, but they’ve selected your establishment. Show appreciation.

18 When using crew to line bust during peak times, distribute a paper menu to allow guests the time and information to complete their order. The same idea can introduce promotions.

19 Toss a hard candy or mint into the customer’s to-go bag.

20 Clean the windshields of waiting cars. No one does this, which is precisely why you should.

Management

21 Visit your own drive thru to see the process from a customer’s eyes. Bring a video camera along to record and later review the experience.

22 Visit other drive thrus with a critical eye and attention to detail.

23 Learn and improve by taking the lessons of drive-thru visits to heart. Be objective and strategic in analyzing strengths and weaknesses. The ultimate goal is to be professionally aware, not personally correct.

24 Knowledge is power. With data that represents current efficiency, management can make operational adjustments to improve drive-thru throughput.

25 Employee recognition and incentive programs for both speed and accuracy can motivate staff to provide swift service.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

34 Brainstorm improvement ideas with the drive-thru crew.