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During the COVID-19 pandemic, more quick-service restaurant traffic has moved to the drive thru than ever before. However, this increased volume has highlighted one of the major challenges facing restaurants at the drive-thru window: loyalty.

As brands fight to survive during the pandemic, capturing every potential sale is a critical piece of the puzzle. Loyalty programs—and apps in particular—are a key part of drawing traffic in and driving additional sales through personalized offerings. 

“While sales traditionally relied on having the most convenient location to draw in consumers, today most can build traffic with loyalty programs and coupons, leveling the playing field,” says Thibaud Denolle, director of innovation and marketing at Acrelec.

Yet while loyalty programs can help brands draw in traffic, most of them were designed for in-house dining, where loyalty cards or apps can be scanned at the beginning of an order. This means cashiers can verify whether or not a customer actually has a coupon they say they want to redeem up front. In the drive thru, however, restaurants either have to trust that diners have the right coupon when they place the order and confirm the coupon at the window, potentially costing the restaurant money and food if the coupon is wrong, or wait until the customer reaches the window to begin ringing in the order, slowing down the drive thru. 

Similarly, because apps can’t be scanned until after an order is placed, cashiers also can’t prompt diners with a personalized add-on offer during the ordering process, leading to missed sales opportunities. Though some brands have added QR scanners to ordering posts, direct sunlight can interfere with readers, and varying vehicle heights could encourage diners to get out of their cars and walk to the scanner, which can create 40–60 second delays for the drive thru.

However, a new high-tech approach can help restaurants solve all these issues: Acrelec’s Drive ID.

Drive ID identifies customers in the drive thru by connecting to apps on their mobile devices with Bluetooth, which offers more precision than other data sources, such as geofencing.

“Our research shows that most customers already have Bluetooth enabled on their devices,” Denolle says. “And many people already use it frequently to connect with their cars, making it the perfect way to connect with customers in the drive thru.” 

Once a guest is identified, cashiers can suggest personalized upsells and process offers without slowing down the drive thru. The system can also connect to multiple passengers in the same car, ensuring each guest can redeem offers. Additionally, Drive ID can be customized to include other features brands might need, such as payment processing.

Now, while restaurants are fighting for every dollar in a crowded industry, loyalty programs are more vital than ever. And with Drive ID, restaurants can easily drive additional sales and increase check sizes without sacrificing drive-thru efficiency.

“Research shows that offers are most effective when they are personalized,” Denolle says, “and loyalty programs are even more important now that the drive thru is the core of the quick-service business. With Drive ID, we can help restaurants make their drive thrus and loyalty programs more effective than ever.”

For more information, check out the Acrelec website

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