Ordering | October 2011 | By Daniel P. Smith

100 Ways to Improve Your Drive Thru

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Look and Feel

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

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

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

38 Signage should be easy to read and noncluttered. Resist any urge to post paper notes.

39 Ensure the menuboard reflects current pricing and menu items.

40 Clean the menuboard. Make it shine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology

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.

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.

51 Use a modern, high-quality speaker system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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