Drive-Thru Restaurant Ideas
Parnell Dean / Foodservice Tips, Restaurant Tips / October 24
With fewer customers dining in, it’s critical for restaurants to not only have a drive-thru system, but also make sure it’s optimized to meet the business’ and customers’ needs. If you’re not sure where to start, these drive-thru restaurant ideas will help you design and improve your system so you can maximize both the customer experience and your bottom line.
How to Design a Drive-Thru
When designing a drive-thru, it’s important to always keep speed, efficiency and safety in mind. Here’s a list of good guidelines to follow:
- Clear Signage – People don’t like feeling confused, especially if they’re trying to buy something. Even if you think everyone will know where to go, remember to include signs to guide the flow of traffic through your drive-thru.
- Smooth Bends – Sharp bends and turns not only confuse drivers but also snarl traffic, increasing the time it takes for customers to get their food. That’s why QSRmagazine.com recommends designing drive-thrus with smooth, gradual bends to facilitate the flow of traffic.
- Menu Boards – Menu boards should be up-to-date and easy-to-read, so make sure they’re out of direct sun to reduce glare and well-lit for late-night customers.
- Good Lighting – Adequate lighting gives customers a sense of security and deters would-be criminals. If people feel safe, they’ll be more likely to visit your restaurant.
- Additional Parking – Sometimes customers have to wait for their order, so designating a special place off to the side where they can park while they wait will help them not feel forgotten. Additional parking would also be a good place for customers with large orders to wait so that they don’t hold up the main line.
- Outdoor Employees – If you really want to speed things up, consider stationing some employees outside near the drive-thru lane to guide traffic. These employees can also take orders, so be sure to give them tablets so they can relay those orders back to the kitchen.
How Much Does a Drive-Thru System Cost?
According to a Quikserv.com article, the cost of adding a drive-thru to an existing restaurant ranges from $35,000 for small restaurants to $80,000 for larger establishments. In fact, the article states that the cost can be up to 50% of total capital. The cost of adding a drive-thru is significant because so many of the critical components are expensive, such as the:
- Speaker System
- Menu Board
- Overhead Lighting
- Lane Curbs
- Outdoor Signage
Even if your restaurant already has a drive-thru system, updating or improving it is expensive, too. With the cost to install a drive-thru window ranging from $500 to $1,000 depending on labor costs, there’s no doubt that building or improving a drive-thru requires a major investment. However, since drive-thrus can account for up to 75% of sales, the investment is worth it.
How Can I Improve My Drive-Thru?
Although drive-thrus have been an integral part of food service for decades, innovations in drive-thrus are improving the experience for both customers and businesses. If you’re looking to make your drive-thru system faster, more efficient and more profitable, here are some ideas:
- Split Kitchen – If you have the space and the equipment, you might want to consider dedicating part of your kitchen to drive-thru orders so your kitchen staff can optimize the layout and workflow for those orders.
- Well-Stocked – Customers hate it when they don’t get napkins, utensils or condiments. These small things are easy to overlook, so be sure that these extras are within easy reach for whoever is working at the drive-thru window.
- Clear Goals – Even though your employees know speed is important, setting clear benchmarks in regards to time will help them be more efficient. If you really want to speed things up, consider turning it into a game: the employee who fulfills orders the fastest wins some sort of prize.
- Mobile-Only Lanes – Select Chick-fil-A locations are testing “Drive-Thru Express” lanes dedicated solely to orders placed on the Chick-fil-A app. By taking customers who have already placed their order out of the main drive-thru line, other customers can place their order and receive their food a lot faster.
- Digital Menu Boards – Unlike traditional boards, digital boards can be edited. If you don’t serve waffles after 10 a.m. or you’re out of lettuce, take them off the menu so people don’t get mad when they’re not available. You can even integrate the AI with license plate cameras or customers’ phones so you can greet repeat customers.
- Confirmation Boards – Asking customers to confirm their orders is sure to cut down on the number of mistakes. Upselling is a great way to increase sales, so these digital boards can also be used to suggest menu items based on customers’ past orders, demographic information or even weather conditions.