Americans love coffee. And we’re usually in a hurry—especially in the morning when we’re rushing to get to work or school. At Scooter’s Coffee, we set up our business model to capitalize on that. Speed of service is one of our main priorities. Our company was even named for its goal of helping customers scoot in and out quickly. The drive-thru kiosk model is designed to make it simple for people to get their coffee and drinks, then get where they’re going.
Scooter’s Coffee’s fast, friendly service, coupled with our quality, specialty grade coffee, is a key brand differentiator. If customers are sitting in the drive-thru lane for 10 minutes, we are not providing them with the amazing experience we’ve promised. I’ve made it my mission to figure out how to move those cars through the drive thru faster by shaving seconds off each transaction.
According to studies, each interaction between the customer and the employee adds 4 seconds to the order process. By eliminating two interactions, we save eight seconds per customer. Assuming we get 120 customers in an hour, if we save eight seconds on each interaction, we can potentially get at least another 10 cars through in an hour.
I realized that in order to do that, we needed to simplify our menu. If our menu is too complicated, it puts too much cognitive demand on customers, and they can freeze up when they’re ordering. The first step was changing the menu layout and presentation—adding extensive graphics—to make it easier for customers to take in the information. The next step has been simplifying the menu offerings, reducing the number of LTOs and menu cycles throughout each year. We have to remember that coffee is a loyalty business. Our best customers visit us three to five times a week for the drinks they love, so we don’t want to constantly change the menu.
Core items that drive loyalty and traffic, like the Caramelicious, will always have space on our menu. But, customers aren’t ordering a certain item, and the item takes longer to prepare, so we may not keep serving it. Scooter’s Coffee’s menu will continue to evolve, as we evaluate the productivity of every item on the menu.
With speed being the differentiator, all food and beverage items on our menu must score a certain rating on our complexity scale. The ratings—from 1 to 6—are based on several factors, including speed of preparation. The lower the rating, the easier the items are to prepare. The goal is for an item to score between 1 and 3.
If we develop a recipe for a new item and it ranks on the high end of the complexity scale, we will not add it to the menu. Plus, we’re continually looking for ways to lower the complexity ranking of existing menu items. For instance, we had beverages that required multiple pumps of multiple syrups to make, so six months ago, we worked with our vendor to produce Scooter’s Coffee proprietary combo syrups, so now the baristas only have to use that one syrup.
My goal is shaving off seconds by making it easier for the customers to order and for the baristas to prepare that order. And the best way to do that is by leaning into a simplified menu—the right items and the right number of items.
I think that’s what all quick-serves need to be doing right now, yet many of them continue to add additional menu items. They are looking for ways to bring more cars into the drive-thru, mistakenly believing that more traffic equals more sales. But, at Scooter’s Coffee, we’ve learned that too many cars in the drive-thru line can backfire if you don’t provide fast services—potential customers may keep driving if they see a long line of waiting cars. Instead, move the cars thru quicker, increasing customer satisfaction, and tell them you’ll see them again tomorrow.
Craig Bowman is the Vice President of Learning and Process at Scooter’s Coffee and has been with the franchise since August of 2020. Bowman has over 25 years of experience in operations, training, and development. Prior to working for Scooter’s Coffee, Bowman worked for multiple Fortune 500 companies and had the opportunity to be the head of enterprise training and process for two companies.