How the Drive-Thru Drives Profits

Revel Blog | Kellie Wong | April 9, 2016 |

Industry Insights and Trends

We’re used to seeing drive-thru places on just about every corner. And, the format isn’t just limited to fast food. There are drive-thru pharmacies, cleaners and convenience stores offering customers a way to shop without leaving their cars. The drive-thru story began in 1948 according to when a 100-square foot burger joint posted a sign saying “No Delay” to attract passing motorists. The burger place featured five cooks working behind glass walls and incorporated an intercom ordering system to go along with both dine in or take out options. That small burger place was called In-N-Out, and it launched the drive-thru phenomenon.

By the Numbers  

The drive-thru portion of a fast food restaurant’s business model contributes greatly to the revenue stream. An article on quotes The NPD Group’s (an independent research firm) claims that customers pulled up to drive-thru windows 12.4 billion times in 2011 and 2012.  The story goes on to report that about 50 to 60 percent of a fast food restaurant’s sales come through the drive-thru windows.

Must Haves for a Successful Drive-Thru

Serving food through a window to customers in cars is a novel approach to dining, but there are several things the restaurants simply have to get right if they want to survive. lists a few of the top customer service issues a drive-thru restaurant must execute correctly every time. Here are a few of the key take-a-ways.

  1. Provide customers with everything they need the first time. This includes correct food orders, beverages, utensils, condiments and plenty of napkins.
  2. Greet customers enthusiastically, make eye-contact and above all smile!
  3. In the event of a mistake, take responsibility and correct the error immediately.

Rating the Big Boys

We know that proper execution is key to a successful drive-thru operation, so watching what the big guys do can provide a road map for smaller drive-thru restaurants. Wendy’s has the quickest service as reported in a recent article; while Chick-fil-A is the most accurate. Average wait time at Wendy’s was just 130 seconds; almost a minute better than Burger King. Chick-fil-A averages 87 percent order accuracy while Burger King comes in at just 82 percent. McDonald’s recently launched its “one minute guarantee” for lunchtime orders. Meanwhile, seeing the profitability of the drive-thru model, Starbucks recently announced that 60% of all new Starbucks locations will have a drive-thru window.

Navigating the Drive-Thru Traffic

Adding a drive-thru feature or improving your existing model can be challenging when there’s just so much competition out there. Revel Systems can help you get around the drive-thru traffic jams with our drive thru POS that allows your customers to communicate face to face with your staff through a live video feed. Why not take a personal test drive of Revel’s iPad POS system designed especially for drive-thrus? Just pull up to the first window.