Over the last two years, quick-serve restaurants have had to rapidly adapt to conditions that changed seemingly every week. While many businesses had to require masks, disable touchscreen kiosks, or even close all indoor service, a lot of establishments with a drive-thru window saw increased business due to conditions outside the business’ control.
Now that restaurants are returning to normal, many owners and franchises are refocusing their investments to develop better drive-thru experiences that use technology to help improve order accuracy, automate upselling, reduce wait times and enable real-time dynamic price adjustments across multiple locations. At Taco Time Northwest, a chain of 79 Mexican fast food restaurants operating in western Washington state, new digital drive-thrus using high-brightness displays from LG Business Solutions USA are enabling quick service restaurants to deliver all of these benefits and more.
“Our drive-thrus account for the majority of our business, so it’s important for us to work to improve the efficiency of that experience,” says Brandon Petersen, Digital Experience Manager at Taco Time Northwest. “In 2018 and 2019 we began looking at the key advantages digital menu boards offered over traditional printed signage. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, closing a number of our dining rooms, we began to invest in a digital drive-thru strategy. We implemented digital menus at a pilot location in 2021, and we’re upgrading up to 20 more restaurants in 2022.”
Petersen explained that even before the pandemic, up to 70 percent of a location’s sales occurred at the drive-thru window, and some had already expanded to two drive-thru lanes to ensure quicker service.
“The basics of our drive-thru experience hadn’t changed in decades, but this new fluid business environment proved that we have an urgent need for more flexible operations,” he adds. “By going digital with LG outdoor displays and an easy-to-use content management system, we can now schedule automatic updates for different daypart menus, promote new items or specials and even show on the screen what is being ordered.”
According to Petersen, the ability to change item pricing is a game-changer, allowing Taco Time to promptly react to increases in supply prices or other factors. Now if the cost of beef rises, locations with all-digital menus can simply adjust item prices accordingly without needing to swap out menu tiles by hand across multiple menu boards, or place unattractive stickers over existing prices.
Taco Time Northwest worked with Zones, LLC, a global IT service provider delivering end-to-end IT solutions, to develop a robust digital signage and content network using the latest technologies. According to Delon Lew, Advanced Technology Executive at Zones, they co-developed a drive-thru solution alongside a third party quick-service-focused tech company and chose to alter the solution with LG high-brightness outdoor displays.
“The digital screen is the customer’s main point of interaction, so it’s critical to use displays that offer exceptional visibility in virtually any lighting situation with bright colors and reliable performance every day, regardless of weather conditions,” Lew said. “The full solution we sourced had almost everything we needed, but we decided to compare LG’s high-brightness outdoor displays against the standard included display, and we all agreed the LG appearance was superior.”
The first location in Monroe, Washington now features a dual-lane drive-thru, with each lane featuring two 55-inch (LG model 55XE4F) vertical high-brightness outdoor displays that provide up to 4,000 nits of brightness. Besides displaying the menu itself, one of the most important features of the displays and content system that it can be configured to provide order confirmation so both customers and employees are assured that each order is heard, entered and prepared correctly. This seemingly small convenience feature can provide high customer satisfaction, efficiency and fast order completion time.
Petersen added that the first location to receive a digital drive-thru saw a 7.5 percent increase in cars and an average check increase of 5.2 percent year-over-year since it was installed. The store interiors are going digital too, so managers can update the LG signage quickly and easily, which gives customers a fully modernized experience no matter how they buy their food. In fact, Taco Time Northwest is shifting from over-the-counter menu boards to queue-style displays, where multiple digital screens are mounted on a wall alongside a designated waiting line area, so customers have lots of time to see all the options and the restaurant has greater opportunity to advertise specials and upsell items. The Monroe location now features three side-by-side 43-inch LG displays (LG model 43UL3J-E) in the queue area.
“The quick service restaurant game is changing, and LG’s display solutions can help optimize operational efficiencies and provide excellent customer experiences,” says David Boerlin, Digital Signage Key Account Manager at LG Business Solutions USA. “Whether it’s for a drive-thru, a queue line, or even specialized areas such as drive-in booths, our product line has an ideal option for every need and situation, including touchscreens, 4K displays and even transparent LED film signage. We look forward to seeing how inventive business owners like Taco Time and third-party solutions providers like Zones continue to reimagine the quick service restaurant industry.”