As restaurant operations and traffic continue to recover from the shockwave of COVID-19, it’s clear that many of the new habits consumers picked up over the last few years are here to stay. In March 2023, Revenue Management Solutions found that 70 percent of consumers order takeout at least once a week. In fact, takeout is now the preferred channel for ordering from restaurants—according to the report, it outpaces both dine-in and delivery.
“It’s more important than ever for people to get their food as quickly and conveniently as possible,” says Ross Merkling, key account business manager at ASSA ABLOY. “If someone can place an order in a few seconds on an app, they’re not going to want to sit and wait to pick it up for an extended period of time.”
At the same time, however, many quick-service restaurants continue to see labor shortages as open positions go unfilled. Efficiency—especially in the drive-thru—is sensitive to a number of factors, but a short staff makes operations much more complex. “It’s a two-pronged attack, right? It’s not just a matter of getting cars through the drive thru,” says Jose Gonzalez, key account business development manager at ASSA ABLOY. “You have to have the infrastructure that supports the preparation of the food, and then you have to facilitate the transactional piece of the equation occurring as seamlessly as possible.”
ASSA ABLOY, a global company that creates access solutions for a wide variety of industries, recently introduced a new express door specifically designed for the unique challenges quick-service restaurants face at the end of this process that Gonzalez describes. The SL500 Express door series allows employees to step outside and bring orders directly to customers’ cars, maximizing throughput and ensuring the customer’s final touchpoint is delightful and efficient.
“Let’s say that a car in the line only wanted drinks. Let’s get them their drinks and they can go on their way,” Merkling says. “These doors allow for improved speed of service, as well as more of a human interaction when it comes to picking up food. The door can be opened up like a regular sliding door, and employees can walk out and actually interact with the customers and bring a more personalized experience.”
At the same time, the SL500 Express door series also maintains a secure perimeter. The top portion can be used as a simple window during slower periods—and to help ensure employee safety, there is no exterior locking component. “All the manual lockdowns for the night mode are on the interior side, so there’s no possibility of tampering with it to facilitate a break-in,” Gonzalez says.
The doors were specifically designed to address many of the consistent issues quick-service restaurants have encountered with other automatic doors. “There’s a lot of activity that’s occurring in that food preparation area, so any type of motion sensor activation creates havoc where the door would never technically close,” Gonzalez says. “We designed new sensor technology that uses a very close presence and activation capability. It’s a gigantic game-changer. We’ve also introduced a self-cleaning maintenance-free floor design assembly, significantly improving the functionality for quick-service restaurants. If fries, straws, lids, or similar debris get into the floor track, they won’t prevent the door from functioning properly.”
ASSA ABLOY’s SL500 Express door series is offered as a sliding door and as swing doors. According to Merkling, some larger brands have found their locations with these doors are able to serve around 200 orders per hour. “It’s shifting how the drive thru works, but there’s a lot of value in it,” Merkling says. “It’s well worth a pilot program for customers to experience it and to see what the ROI truly is.”
To learn more, visit ASSA ABLOY’s website.
By Kara Phelps