Making the Case for Order-Confirmation Boards

    Today's options increasingly boast digital, dynamic screens that can do far more than list menu items.
    Drive Thru | October 2019 | Sam Oches
    The 2019 Drive-Thru Performance Study

    istockphoto / MartinPrescott

    An OCB can do a bit more heavy lifting than simply confirming an order for a guest.

    Order-confirmation boards (OCB) remain a polarizing tool in the quick-serve industry. The data is all over the map for OCB implementation, with 84.8 percent of Taco Bell locations featuring the technology on the high end and 7.3 percent of Dunkin' restaurants on the low. 

    The immediate benefit of the OCB is clear: By listing a guest's order on a screen in front of them, a restaurant can ensure none of the order is lost in translation, thereby improving the chances for accuracy.

    But the order-confirmation strategy is not so cut-and-dried. Some brands have employed video screens that show employees to improve multiple components of the ordering process, including order confirmation; Taco Bell's Grams says the brand is testing this strategy, while Starbucks rolled out a similar initiative a few years ago.

    Chick-fil-A, meanwhile, famously relies on its employees to confirm orders, which may help explain why only about 13 percent of its restaurants use the board technology. Chick-fil-A's drive thrus are so busy that tablet-wielding team members often replace the speaker and OCB altogether. "A team member can take an order and payment all with one piece of technology, and that technology prompts them to ask the customer's name to help make sure we give the customer the right order," Cooper says.

    For those using the standard OCB process, today's boards increasingly boast digital, dynamic screens that can do far more than list menu items.

    "The original iterations of the order-confirmation boards, we've come a long way from that," says Kelly from Arby's. "And you know, they're almost interactive to the point [where] even some AI is built in there on what can be purchased and added on. There's some big opportunity there as long as it's done thoughtfully and you don't create an overwhelming experience for the guests in the drive thru."

    That opportunity means an OCB can do a bit more heavy lifting than simply confirming an order for a guest, Kelly says—like upselling the customer without any effort from the employee.

    OCB in Place:

    brand ocb in place percent
    Arby's 15.2
    Burger King 75.8
    Carl's Jr. 79.3
    Chick-fil-A 13.1
    Dunkin' 7.3
    Hardee's 69.9
    KFC 14.5
    McDonald's 81.8
    Taco Bell 84.8
    Wendy's 75.8
    TOTAL 48.8

    OCB Easy to Read:

    ocb easy to read yes no
    TOTAL 86.4 13.6

    2019 QSR drive-thru performance study Methodology

    Data for the 2019 QSR Drive-Thru Performance Study was collected and tabulated by SeeLevel HX. The study included 10 chains and data from 1,503 visits, with the following break-down of visits by chain: Arby's (165), Burger King (165), Carl's Jr. (82), Chick-fil-A (183), Dunkin' (165), Hardee's (83), KFC (165), McDonald's (165), Taco Bell (165), and Wendy's (165). Visits were conducted across the country, across all regions and dayparts. No restaurant location was visited more than once. All data was collected between June 1 and August 1.

    Daypart analysis was based on the time of day of the visit—breakfast (5-9 a.m.), mid-morning (9-11:30 a.m.), lunch (11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.), late afternoon (1:30-4 p.m.), and dinner (4-7 p.m.). The distribution of visits mirrored revenue by daypart.

    Upon each visit, a data collection researcher surveyed the drive-thru lane and then entered the line as any other customer. Each order placed by our researchers consisted of one main item, one side item, and one beverage. A minor special request was also made with each order, such as beverage with no ice. Although two different speed-of-service times were recorded for each visit (one for the researchers' order/experience and another from a randomly selected vehicle), all tables within this feature are related to the researchers' own vehicle and experience only, as this was the controlled order. Service time was defined as the time from stopping at the order station to receipt of all items (including change). Additional data collected by each researcher included but was not limited to: order accuracy, drive-thru and exterior appearance, speaker clarity, and customer service. All purchases were made using cash so as not to influence timing.