Industry News | July 29, 2008

Building a Culture of Speed in Drive-Thru

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A recent study from Insula Research determined that timer systems do have a measurable impact on speed in the drive-thru. But any restaurant operator will tell you that buying a timer isn't enough on its own—you also have to create a culture of speed in your restaurant. There are a couple of ways to do this. One is to implement motivational contests so that crew members have a reason to want to beat the clock.

Here are 7 motivational competitions, gathered from noted restaurant trainer T.J. Schier and operators surveyed by QSR.

Bonus Time: This is about as simple as it gets, but when you install a timer at the drive-thru, offer crew members a bonus for hitting specific times. One McDonald's operator we talked to said this dropped average speed of service by almost 40 seconds.

"FUN"d-raiser: Reward order-takers who beat the total sales goal for a given hour. This approach allows them to focus on the total number of cars, as well as suggestive selling. Let them earn one point for every sales dollar they beat the goal by and save the points for prizes. Post the total sales and check averages of cashiers so they balance speed and selling—you win both ways!

Closest to the Pin: Have the team guess service times, total or hourly sales, or total cars through during the peak hours. Reward the person who guesses the closest. You can also use this contest for over/short as well. Giving people a vested interest in the outcome makes them more focused on it!

Right on Time: Tell the drive-thru team they have the potential to earn a 10-cent raise (or 10 lottery tickets, $10 cash, or 10 free meals, etc.). Each time an order goes over the allotted time standard, they lose one cent (or ticket, dollar, or free meal). This contest is a great way to reward the production team and balances the two critical elements—speed and accuracy.

Football: Reward 1 "yard" for every order that is correct and on time. Penalty flags are thrown and yardage is lost for incorrect orders (15 yards), slow times (10 yards), or no suggestive selling (5 yards). Reward the team for each touchdown scored. Have a store vs. store or shift vs. shift playoff system to create some competition and encourage teamwork.

World Series: If you have more than one location, have two with similar sales compete on speed of service. Do it for nine days, and score the competition like a nine-inning baseball game. Send the winning team to see the local major or minor league team play.

Drive Time: This one is for the managers. Set drive-thru time goals for your locations and reward the manager whose location performs best with the use of a cool car for a month. Yes, this requires an investment, but one operator we talked to purchased a PT Cruiser and used it not only for this, but also other promotions—and the car paid for itself.

Operational Practices

Motivational contests aren't the only way to create a culture of speed at the drive-thru. Simple operational practices are also key. Here are a few we hear from operators on a regular basis:

  • Put your best and most experienced employees on the drive-thru.
  • Have a dedicated drive-thru attendant who does not take orders.
  • Make sure the kitchen staff has a way to hear the customer's order. Put headsets on everyone.
  • Give priority to drive-thru on your POS system.
  • Consider investing in a second order point. You're only as fast as your slowest point, which is taking orders if you have your operation right. You can't force customers to order more quickly.

There are so many possibilities for creating a culture of speed in your operation, and we hope these have given you a few ideas.

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