To take drive-thru operations to the next level, operators need to focus on what the data reveals.

During the worst phases of COVID-19, a case could be made that drive thrus saved the quick-service restaurant industry. When dining rooms closed, drive thrus shouldered most of the revenue intake for many chains—and that trend shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

“The increase in the percentage of drive-thru sales, pre-pandemic versus now, has been absolutely remarkable—not only for our company and our brand, but for the industry as a whole,” says Jon Aiello, market president with Flynn Restaurant Group. “The drive thru is the lifeblood of quick-service restaurants right now, and I feel like that change is here to stay. Companies that are able to operate drive thrus that are extremely efficient, extremely accurate, and friendly will have the advantage.”

Getting drive-thru operations right is critical, even more so in the current environment. “Right now, our top focus in our stores is on growing top line sales through drive-thru execution, with an emphasis on late-night operations,” Aiello says. “A lot of companies took a natural sales lift during the pandemic just because there were more consumers in general going through drive thrus, but to maintain it and to realize the true potential, you’ve got to have consistently outstanding operations.”

As Flynn Restaurant Group refocuses on meeting high demand at the drive thru, data is one main prong of its approach. The company holds weekly engagement calls with its store managers and area coaches to review outlier reports from Envysion Restaurant Solution Suite, a video surveillance and loss prevention software solution that ties reporting to video verification. The outlier reports show video footage and transaction data side-by-side, providing insights and context to dig deeper into the numbers. 

“We get to have a good conversation every week about where the opportunities are, and that’s been really helpful,” Aiello says.

“Companies that are able to operate drive thrus that are extremely efficient, extremely accurate, and friendly will have the advantage.”

Flynn Restaurant Group originally chose Envysion to help mitigate business risk. Beyond helping to reduce loss prevention, the platform has also proved valuable in other ways. “Initially, when we started with Envysion, our biggest gain was obviously loss prevention,” Aiello says. “The platform helped us see where we were missing the boat in terms of refunds, voids, promos—things going on that maybe shouldn’t be going on. But a hidden benefit that we’ve discovered along the way has been the operational improvements we’ve been able to make, just through the normal course of engaging with the videos and engaging with the outlier reports. We’ve become better as an organization as a result of it.”

Envysion has allowed Flynn Restaurant Group to identify key areas of their drive-thru operations and make measurable differences over time. “Everybody has more on their plate, and no one has time to watch video all day,” Aiello says. “Envysion integrates a high-tech video surveillance system into our POS and gives us real-time data. In five or 10 minutes over coffee, you’re able to identify where your pain points are—not only in terms of loss prevention, but also in terms of operational deficiencies. You’re able to go and address those immediately instead of being buried in a computer all day. It’s been a huge help to us.”

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By Kara Phelps

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