Rintelman says functionality is the most important factor when restaurant leaders decide which windows to install. Because Nobel Stores focuses on serving guests outside the store, there are fewer touchpoints to impress customers, meaning choosing a solution that works for the brand is the most important consideration, and Rintelman knows from experience how much a less-than-ideal setup can create challenges.
“Windows should self-close per the foodservice health code,” says Anna Ellis, sales and marketing manager at Ready Access. “From low-cost gravity-fed windows to electronic fully automatic windows, it’s important to choose the system that works best for your brand.”
“In the restaurant industry, form without function is useless,” Rintelman says. “Everything has to be functional and enhance the guest experience. In the past, our staff had to hold open windows while passing Blizzards through, and that wasn’t a good customer experience, and it wasn’t in the best interest of our staff.”
This was one of the biggest reasons why Rintelman began looking for new window providers when his team began renovating stores. Now, the brand uses Ready Access windows, which feature self-closing mechanisms with an optional magnetic hold open device and presence sensor called Manual Open Electronic Release, or MOER. He says because the new windows keep employees from holding open windows, they have made staff more efficient.
Another operational concern for many concepts is the air curtain. Not only can it work as a fly fan to keep pests, car fumes, and dust away from the kitchen, but it can also be a significant contributor to employee satisfaction. For example, air curtains can be heated to help make staff more comfortable in the winter. Some operators report the air curtain helping them hold temperature on product for increased yield of items such as fries by creating a barrier between the inside and outside temperature of the building.
The glass is another major concern. Restaurant leaders should ask themselves what is most important.
“Do you need the least expensive option?” Ellis asks. “Or are you in an area where you need bullet resistance or protection from breaking and entering after hours? Do your windows face the sun or are your stores located in areas with extreme temperatures? Answers to these questions can help Ready Access direct you to the best window and glass for your project.”
This was a major factor for Rintelman’s Dairy Queen stores. He says Aurora, Illinois, frequently experiences cold weather and wind chills that drop into negative temperatures, so they chose insulated windows. Conversely, in areas where it gets warm, adding Low E to the insulated glass can reduce the heat transfer from the outside by 30 percent or more to keep your staff more comfortable.
Restaurant leaders need to consider the size for the service opening to ensure a window is successful, Ellis says. Consider how much room is needed to hand out product, how your equipment is laid out, and what height will help keep employees from stooping to interact with guests. Also, there may be health code requirements to consider. California, for example requires windows with less than 432 square inches of pass-thru area. Ready Access has worked with the largest brands for decades and offers many design solutions that can help meet whatever challenges a brand is experiencing.
“It’s important to ask window providers if their products come in sizes that will fit your footprint,” Rintelman says. “We’ve never had an issue with Ready Access not being able to fit their products to our environment.”
Though the drive-thru window may not be the star of the show, Rintelman says it’s a critical component in guest and employee experience.
“Staff notice the Ready Access windows and love them,” he says. “I don’t think customers really notice, but that’s the point. They don’t notice what goes into them having a great experience at a restaurant, but they certainly notice if they’re having a poor experience. You don’t want your windows to be an impediment to delivering an exceptional customer experience.”
By Peggy Carouthers