Creative thinking will help restaurants manage peak drive-thru volume.

Drive thru historically made up a significant portion of quick-service sales prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but, as indoor dining restrictions and consumer precautions continue, it has become even more important. While the increased traffic is an advantage to restaurants, most stores were not designed to handle the volume of customers they now see at the drive-thru window. Some brands, however, have been able to improve drive-thru efficiency by moving employees to outdoor speed teams during busy times to provide faster service.

“Long wait lines are intimidating and can result in lost transactions,” says Paul Foley, president of HME Hospitality & Specialty Communications. “A speed team secures orders by engaging customers earlier in the queue. It also improves speed of service by giving the kitchen crew more time to prepare orders and provides a more urgent and personal touch for your customers.”

Speed team members can also answer guest questions and process payments, reassuring diners that the longer drive-thru line will move quickly. And, equipped with proper social distancing; touchless payment processing devices; and protective equipment such as disposable gloves, masks, and face shields, speed teams help keep customers and employees safer.

This strategy is easy for restaurants to implement, too. Foley suggests using two crew members who move car-to-car upstream from the speaker post. In addition to taking orders, these employees can also hand out paper menus or plastic menus that can be sanitized between uses. At peak times, restaurants can also have speed team members create a pop up second drive-thru lane for orders, while other team members can deliver orders to cars rather than waiting to serve all guests through a single window.

Perhaps best of all, speed teams only require a few key pieces of equipment to operate effectively. Foley suggests tablets for order taking, a method of payment processing, and dual-channel headsets that allow speed team members to communicate clearly with managers and staff inside the restaurant, such as HME’s EOS | HD drive-thru system. With a telephone interface, message center, noise reduction, HD audio and wideband clarity, and an expandable range that covers most parking lots, the EOS | HD system provides everything speed team members need to be successful.

“The EOS | HD drive-thru system makes it easy to transition from a standard drive-thru lane setting to speed team mode, enabling restaurants to change the configuration that best suits their drive-thru volume on the spot,” Foley says. “Speed Team mode on the EOS | HD base station mutes communication from the headset to the speaker post as well as the vehicle detection alerts that the order taker hears in the standard configuration. This allows the crew to use the headsets to communicate with team members inside the restaurant and vice versa.”

Though the pandemic continues and restaurants still face daily challenges as a result, struggles in managing a high-volume drive thru doesn’t have to be one of them.

“With limited dine-in options open, the drive thru is busier and more important than ever before,” Foley says. “A speed team approach is a convenient, flexible, and cost-effective option that will help restaurants provide superior service and drive more revenue.”  

To learn more about the EOS | HD drive-thru system, visit

By Peggy Carouthers


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