The drive-thru has been a long-lasting innovation in the restaurant industry. However, over the last few years and during the COVID-19 pandemic, many establishments have embraced new trends to take drive-thru service to a whole other level. If you’re still looking for ways to improve service at your restaurant, here are some new drive-thru concepts you should embrace.
1. Drive-Thru Pickup
Curbside pickup has been a growing casual and fast food trend in the last five years, and it really took off during the pandemic. However, many drive-thru restaurants took this concept a step further with drive-thru pickup. Major chains like Dunkin’ and Wendy’s slowly rolled out this idea a few years ago but really perfected it in the last year or so.
Drive-thru pickup lets patrons to order online or via mobile app and conveniently pick up their food in the drive-thru lane. All the customer has to do is say their name or order number at the speaker. The recipe for success is an easy-to-use mobile app or website and a capable POS system. Both are essential for processing orders quickly.
2. Tablet Technology
Remember when touchscreen kiosks were all the rage in foodservice? When McDonald’s added these ordering stations to various locations in 2018, other places picked up on the idea to help reduce wait times. While that works inside a restaurant, there is a really easy way to bring this to the drive thru, and it only requires a few tablets.
Chick-fil-A has mastered this method to help move large lines of customers in and out of the drive-thru lane quickly. Earlier this year, California-based El Pollo Loco started testing tablets at 10 restaurants and saw very positive gains. The uptick led to a soft rollout in May at additional locations. According to its CEO Bernard Acoca, having staff take orders and payments from patrons on tablets while in the drive-thru queue has helped achieve a “45-second order-and-window time.”
3. Multi-Lane Setups
When double drive-thru lanes came on the scene, it was a shock to the system for some consumers and industry people. More McDonald’s restaurants have implemented this model across the United States over the last decade. The biggest reasons behind the change from a single-lane setup was to shave off ordering and wait times. Restaurants with high vehicle traffic, mobile ordering and delivery should consider this option because it can help manage and optimize the process for these different types of orders.
In fact, Taco Bell cited both factors as a driving force behind testing a four-lane model at Taco Bell Defy in Brooklyn Park, MN. The restaurant is dedicating a few lanes for only mobile and delivery orders, while one lane is being used for traditional drive-thru orders. In the mobile lanes, patrons will scan a QR code before pulling forward to pick up their food from contactless lift. Customers will still be able to interact with staff via a two-way video and audio system.
4. Contactless Pickup
Of course, contactless pickup methods really grew during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be a point of emphasis in foodservice. As consumers get used to this trend at QSR and fast-casual establishments, it’s certainly worth adopting a couple of contactless methods in the drive-thru lane as well.
As mentioned in the Taco Bell example from above, the future could include scanning a QR code and having food served at the pickup window via a lift system. However, in the short term, window pickup could feature a sliding drawer for patrons to insert a method of payment and receive their order.