Ordering | October 2011 | By Daniel P. Smith

100 Ways to Improve Your Drive Thru

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Friendly customer service is a sure fire way to grow drive thru sales.
image used with permission.

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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Comments

It is interesting to view 3M's interpratation on how to improve drive thru operations.QSR communication systems accounts a blip of 3M's total global business that the general public would not notice if the business unit folded tomorrow.Perhaps we should consult the true experts.PS. My door is always open.

Drive-thrus need to start having a dollar limit on how much they'll allow you to order. There's nothing worse than being stuck behind a family of 5 in a minivan who take forever to order and get their stuff when all most people want is to get their stuff and go. I think $20 is perfectly reasonable. Any more than that - get out of your van, go inside, and stop holding up the rest of the line.

So imagine a mini-van pulls up to the speaker in front of you. They go through their order and are told "Sorry, your order total is $20.92. Please come inside. Then you have a minute or two of them complaining, trying to pull out of the drive-thru lane, etc.Any drive-thru business would much prefer the car ordering $30 worth of food while making you wait the extra minute or two to order from the $1 value menu.

You would have to have a $50.00 max, when a combo is $10.00 make it a malt instead of a drink your at $15.00 x 3 people $45.00 $$$$$$$

Let's run through this objectively from the customer point of view - I agree with a lot of these, but...6. Doggie treats - Not only is this bad health practice, in fact, in many locations, it's illegal.10. Ordering post close to car - I prefer that it be farther away, so that I can be sure it don't damage my car.12. Greeting - Yes, this is important, but already done. More important to me? Greet me with a "Welcome to" not "Hi, how are you" or an automated message.15. "Using what questions - Several places around here do this. I'm more likely to end the transaction and drive off, because it forces an upsell on me that I don't want. Don't do it. Passive "Would you like a drink?" is better to encourage upsells.19. The hard candy -- ALLERGIES potential. I'm allergic to peppermint. A particular mexican joint does this, and if I can't get to the candy before it melts from the food heat, I have a completely ruined meal.29. Offsite - I find that offsite services increase frustration due to accent issues and offer no accountability. If I find out they go offsite, I go elsewhere.46. Canopies - The canopy does no good if it's nothing more than a decoration. Make sure the canopy actually stops rain and enhances readability.54. Speaker volume - Can we get some sites turned way down? I don't need to go deaf due to your speaker system set louder than an airplane taking off.61/62 - Touch screens - Impractical to implement in a drive through setting.66. Kitchen eavesdropping - many places do this already. In my experience, this makes orders slow down - a live computer monitor is best.74 - Wifi - why would this improve drive thru - Inside sales, yes.81 - Any order taking other than in house is bad.88 - Even if you don't offer a free beverage, just giving me part of my order makes me happy - Give me my drinks, I'll wait, gladly.97 - any narrowing of the path will make me nervous - I value my car, and won't take it into spaces that don't seem to be correct for my car - that includes safety posts making me pull further away from a window so you or I have to lean out of the window.Here's one you didn't hit - Make sure the order screens are easy to understand - a lot of times, the system will send out codes that make no sense... "TxWpr Meal -Mu +Ma" -- do you know what that is? I do, because it's my order at BK - but would anyone else? Spell it out. "Texas Whooper, No Mustard, add Mayo"

88 Customers are on to your attempts to keep drive-thru times down. If their order takes longer than expected, send them to designated drive-thru parking spots and offer a free beverage instead of having them simply pull forward and wait.If I am at the "food delivery" window and you ask me to wait anywhere else, I may just ask for my money back and leave. I expect you to fill my order in the order you received it. The only time this might be acceptable is if I placed an extra large order or some extra complicated item with extras or holds that isnt a normal menu item. If I ordered common items off your menu, I will wait AT the window for my food and everyone that came after me will wait behind me. I will simply ignore your expectation that I 'move out of the way' so you can serve people that came after me.Some other tips:- when handing change to a customer do NOT set the coins on top of the bills in their hand - customers sitting with their side to the window have only one hand to work with - either hand them the coins first in their palm and let them pinch the bills, or hand them the bills first, and then the coins after they have put the bills away inside their car.- once a customer has paid for their order, they should NOT have to wait anywhere they dont have access to an employee. If the 'pay' window and the 'food' window are separate, there should NOT be room for a car between the two windows. Ideal is to not expect customers to pay until their order is ready to hand to them. "wait to pay", NOT "pay to wait"- If there is a wait on some item that a customer is ordering, the time to tell them is RIGHT when they order it, so they can change their mind if they don't have time to wait , or at least BEFORE they pay - waiting until after you have already taken their money is RUDE.curbs that prevent customers from leaving are RUDE - if I get an emergency call, or realize I am late and simply cant wait anymore, I should be able to exit the line and leave.

Parking cars keep times down. If you think about it would you want to compound time onto time, you would have the sixth car waiting 6 minuets for their order. Yes you as a customer is very important but... keeping the flow in DT makes every customer feel important. Most standards for a DT time is 3 mins, does it really matter if you get your food in 3 mins being parked or at the window. Point being if you were a king I would treat you like one but you wouldn't be at a fast food drive thru if you were a king!

88 Customers are on to your attempts to keep drive-thru times down. If their order takes longer than expected, send them to designated drive-thru parking spots and offer a free beverage instead of having them simply pull forward and wait.If I am at the "food delivery" window and you ask me to wait anywhere else, I may just ask for my money back and leave. I expect you to fill my order in the order you received it. The only time this might be acceptable is if I placed an extra large order or some extra complicated item with extras or holds that isnt a normal menu item. If I ordered common items off your menu, I will wait AT the window for my food and everyone that came after me will wait behind me. I will simply ignore your expectation that I 'move out of the way' so you can serve people that came after me.Some other tips:- when handing change to a customer do NOT set the coins on top of the bills in their hand - customers sitting with their side to the window have only one hand to work with - either hand them the coins first in their palm and let them pinch the bills, or hand them the bills first, and then the coins after they have put the bills away inside their car.- once a customer has paid for their order, they should NOT have to wait anywhere they dont have access to an employee. If the 'pay' window and the 'food' window are separate, there should NOT be room for a car between the two windows. Ideal is to not expect customers to pay until their order is ready to hand to them. "wait to pay", NOT "pay to wait"- If there is a wait on some item that a customer is ordering, the time to tell them is RIGHT when they order it, so they can change their mind if they don't have time to wait , or at least BEFORE they pay - waiting until after you have already taken their money is RUDE.curbs that prevent customers from leaving are RUDE - if I get an emergency call, or realize I am late and simply cant wait anymore, I should be able to exit the line and leave.

Instead of pointing out what you hate, let's hear what you liked, and why. It's impractical to implement touch-screen interfaces in a drive through setting? OK, I'm supposed to just accept that blindly? You comment makes me suspect you might have actual experience with this. If so, the reasons you omitted would make your comment tremendously valuable, instead of a "your suggestions are dumb because I'm allergic to peppermint" downer.Here. I'll start - I totally agree with #81. Line busting orders gives you the opportunity to speed up the process. It also gives you the opportunity to not just serve, but really connect with your customers. Win-win.

"9 Customers are clamoring for healthier options in the quick-service sector, so showcase items that incorporate a healthy message."How about actually offering healthy items? I like the lettuce-wrapped burgers or whole wheat bun, veggie sandwiches, etc., iced tea.And enough with the combos - stop interrupting me to ask if I want the combo. It's rude. "I'd like the jumbo burger..." "...would you like the combo?" Besides which, side orders for combos are usually the unhealthiest items on the menu: fries, onion rings, giant sodas. I know you're trying to kill me, please don't make it so obvious. Offer me an apple, an orange, a side of raw broccoli, and I'll be happy to order the combo.

If you want health food offered... DONT GO TO A FAST FOOD RESTAURANT!

26. Hire for personality. Please! Everyone knows that fast food places hire teenagers, who are by definition surly, emo, or both. These are the icons of the fast food industry.How about hiring for native language? An employee working in the fastest-paced part of the restaurant needs to be able to both speak and understand the language of the country in which he or she is employed. I know from experience that restaurants in Quebec have no trouble finding employees who can comprehend French. Burger joints in Switzerland have teenage employees who can speak all 4 of the local languages. What is wrong with American establishments that prevents them from hiring English speakers? I cannot remember the last time I went through a drive through in this country without having to park and go inside to get the correct order.92. I've already given up on fast food places hiring for any kind of simple mathematics skills. Making change is a huge challenge to anyone educated in American public schools. So is counting change back to a customer. I usually have to tell the drive through staff what they should be giving me back. Most of them are poorly-trained enough to take my word for it. If I were less scrupulous, I could pocket quite a bit.

What you think an adult working the drive thru window making minimum wage has more personality then a teenager... right!When you pick the right teenager and with a little training, they can be great! And as for your racist comment, I wont even give you the time of day.

So we should pay these workers at $15 an hour?

20 Clean the windshields of waiting cars. No one does this, which is precisely why you should.Yeah. When I go through a drive through lane to grab lunch, I really want to feel like I'm stuck at a red light downtown with some disgusting smelly bum greasing up my windshield and holding out his hand. Lovely.

Sure, I can accept service with a smile being requested, even keeping the orders right etc...But some of the ideas on this list tell me that this site thinks employees must have hours of free time on their hands... instead of the reality that most businesses are trying to make employees do more work with less people.I mean really, dog treats? So you want people to start baking dog biscuits just in case someone wants to bring Fido along and feed him? I mean if they were going to feed the dog from the fast food they'd probably just give it a burger.And windshield wipers. Yeah. I know you think it makes you stand out but I am betting that more often than not, the employee out there wiping windshield is just going to become "The Target". Why? Because he or she is in view - or within REACH. I fully expect some of the less... patient... customers would start screaming at the windshield guy to "Get the hell back inside and make me my food!"Or worse - if they're angry - well that employee is in reach now. I mean when we have news reports of people trying to physically fight with some of the workers through the window, what's going to happen when there's a worker right next to the car? more than likely a very disgruntled customer might just get into "rage mode" and hit them with the car.O_oInstead of looking at "how wonderful would it be if they did THIS TOO" I suggest you step back and think about just how feasible it really is, how much it would cost the companies - and thus cost the consumers - and how it can go wrong. Because believe me it can go very very wrong.

"Clean the windshields of waiting cars. No one does this, which is precisely why you should."The fact that there seems to be no justification for this other than "nobody does it" should have been a tip off that this is a terrible idea.Here is another: the very nature of the job would expose the employee doing it to increased risk of injury. They're going to be outside, in all kinds of weather, around moving vehicles. They can slip and fall in icy conditions, or they can be hit by a car that doesn't stop fast enough, or with a driver that mistakes the gas for the brake.And as mentioned before, that person will be a handy target for anybody feeling particularly disgruntled about the wait for their food, or having their order messed up, or whatever else. We're already seeing more and more stories about people jumping counters and assaulting employees. Why make somebody be a sitting duck?

Do not EVER make a customer park, when no one is behind him ir her. I have had this happen several times so the timer is fooled.I will ALWAYS demand my money back and go elsewhere when that happpens

Most timers are apart of the POS system, unless they have a ancient system, all they need to do is push a button to stop the timer.

Especially when you have $50 order at McDonald's, They will never park you. I just wanted a McChicken and a Dr. Pepper. I was the guy that was behind the $50 order.

I think # 30 should rank up in the top 10 if listed by importance. From a construction standpoint, it is so crucially imperative to really think the logistics through carefully. Afterthoughts end up looking like just that - you want a drive thru that looks well thought and planned out for ease of use and supreme convenience to the customer. This will add up to a more efficient and more profitable addition to your restaurant in the end. I briefly expanded on a couple of your points here - http://riversedgepm.com/blog/?...

This is a great demonstration of an issue that must be addressed soon.Well analyzed!

The Difference between Drive-thru service and Front counter service is that at the front counter the employee and customer are face to face. Face to Face communication is the key to providing faster, friendlier, and mistake free service.Millions of dollars are spent on improving drive-thru service, Order confirmation, double checking orders, upgrading audio communication, double drive-thrus, timers. When the only difference is that at the front counter emmployees and customers communicate with their EYES and ears and drive-thru with only their ears.Next time try to take a customers order at the front counter and closing your eyes!Employess will tell you they can't but that is what we insturct them to do at the Drive-Thru.Examples of Visual Face to Face communication with cameras and lcds.1. You can actually take a customers order by nodding your head and not even speaking.2. When you can SEE that it is a "regular" customer you sayHi Joe, do you want your #3 combo meal?Instead of Welcome to _____ how may I help you. Yes I would like the #3 combo, and what size? Medium, and what dirink would you like? Coke. Would you like a Dessert? No thanks. ok I have your order as a #3 medium with Coke to drink. Is that correct? Yes Thanks You your total is 7.89, Please pull forward.3. You also can read the customers expressions to guage who you are speaking with what mood they are in and can look at their eyes to see what part of the menuboard they are looking at.4. Have you ever taken an order only to discover the customer is not taking to you but to their cell phone? Now you feel embarrassed.5. When a customer is face to face they are less likely to be rude to an employee. When people talk on a phone without the ablility to see a person they become more agressive. But when face to face will be polite to each other. Employees and customers are more polite towards each other when speaking face to face.6. Teens love the new technology and kids with their parents smile.7. Elderly feel more at ease knowing that they can see the ordertaker, it's like having a waitress take their order.8. The drive-thru order taker position is the hardest to train and hire, becuase customers already have a perceived notion that they will either get a rude person taking their order or a incorrect order. So new employees do not last long facing rude, hard to understand, and in a hurry customers. With face to face communication using LCDS and Cameras the orders are taken fast, friendly, and accurate. The employee now recieves smiles and thank yous from customers. The employee now enjoys their work and is more likely to stay at the drive-thru position.Call 641-472-7833 to discover why Two-Way Visual Communication with provided you with the Best Drive-Thru in Town. Ask for Holly or Bill

Well, my brother use to work at McDonald's and they were rushed all of the time to get the orders and sometimes he made some mistakes, especially when the restaurant manager was yelling at him to go faster, he wanted the "10, 15, 10" second rule. 10 seconds to order, 15 seconds to cash and 10 seconds to hand out the things to the customers. I saw my brother being yelled at lunch time and he was one of the better workers there. He almost always concentrate on the job at hand, most of the time he was waiting on the customer and still he got yelled at.

He did finally quite and now he started his own consulting firm.

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