Post-pandemic contactless drive-thru has really skyrocketed, and the already popular concept of on-the-go dining has only accelerated.
We'll dig into why more restaurants are investing in on-the-go dining, what drive-thru innovations are fueling this growth, and whether your restaurant should be considering opening up a drive-thru lane or two.
Drive-thrus have been around for a long time, but in recent years their popularity has exploded. Now they are almost ubiquitous in restaurants nationwide. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a restaurant that only offers pick-up and drive-thru options.
There are lots of reasons that drive-thrus are as popular as they are, but there's no question that COVID-19 brought about unprecedented challenges for the restaurant industry while accelerating trends that were already in motion. Drive-thrus were already a convenient option before the pandemic, and 2020 marketplace shifts solidified their importance.
When restaurant dining rooms were closed, drive-thru represented about 90% of quick-service sales. Even as dine-in options returned, drive-thru business remained robust, showcasing the lasting impact of this trend.
Today the drive-thru is not just about ordering food from a car. It's about leveraging drive-thru technology and innovations to enhance the customer experience. It’s also about reaching a wider client base and reaching new markets.
Brands are experimenting with new drive-thru elements. Some are testing dedicated lanes for digital order pickup, emphasizing the importance of contactless service and drive-thru efficiency.
In a sense these brands are riffing on a classic concept. By prioritizing lanes dedicated to digital orders, they are removing the time and personnel required to take orders on site, and cutting average drive-thru times significantly.
A few brands have completely eliminated delays in drive-thru lanes by only allowing pickup for orders that have been made digitally ahead of time.
Increasingly, brands are switching away from the old drive-thru order systems in which customers ordered at one window and received their food at another. Now, advanced ordering is becoming the norm.
Many restaurants, even those traditionally reliant on dine-in services, have realized they can operate as drive-thru-only units.
With no dining rooms to maintain, they save considerably on labor and overhead expenses. Drive-thru only units are particularly beneficial in high-density urban areas where real estate comes at a premium. They can be strategically placed between a brand's regular dine-in restaurants, serving as quick pit stops for customers on the move.
This allows a restaurant to open up locations that wouldn’t have been possible in the past.
Fast service is essential in on-the-go dining. A well-managed drive-thru can serve a high volume of customers swiftly, enhancing drive-thru efficiency and boosting sales and customer satisfaction.
The speed of the drive-thru order system directly impacts the bottom line and customer satisfaction. Customers like to get their food quickly. Serving more customers in the same amount of time translates to higher profits.
Drive-thrus offer a contactless dining option, keeping customers within the security of their own car while still allowing them to enjoy eating out. Some restaurants saw drive-thru offerings dovetail with guest loyalty as consumer preferences shifted from shared dining rooms to the comfort and confines of their vehicles.
Drive-thrus cater to a diverse clientele. From time-crunched professionals seeking a quick lunch to parents with children who don’t want to deal with leaving their car, drive-thrus open up a restaurant’s opportunity to reach new kinds of customers.
Diversifying their service options into drive-thrus enables restaurants to tap into new market segments and expand their customer base.
Today's customer expects an integrated experience from their phone or computer to their favorite restaurant. Integrating mobile ordering with drive-thru service enables customers to place their order in advance and swing by for pickup. This streamlines the process for the kitchen and the customer.
As the demand for drive-thru dining grows, restaurants without it risk losing a significant portion of the market. Staying competitive means adapting to industry trends.
Meeting customer demands head-on with new offerings to better meet their needs is key to a restaurant’s survival.
Customer preference for restaurants with drive-thrus is strong. A restaurant without a drive-thru may well lose business to a restaurant with one.
While the attraction of drive-thrus is undeniable in today's fast-paced world, restaurants have to weigh the benefits for their restaurant against the cost. Investing in a drive-thru can offer advantages from increased sales to a broader customer base. However, there are potential downsides:
From acquiring the right real estate to integrating the latest drive-thru technology, the costs of installing a drive-thru can be significant.
However, new modular builds for multiple drive-thru lanes cost about 40% less than a standard building with one drive-thru. Investing in a drive-thru is more affordable now than ever.
Restaurants can also consider phased investments. Save money while you increase earnings by starting with essential infrastructure and gradually upgrading as revenue increases. Financing options or strategic partnerships can also help spread out the costs.
For drive-thru order systems to function smoothly staff must be trained to handle the fast-paced environment. It may be easier for fast-service restaurants that are used to a demanding environment to switch to drive-thru, but it can be challenging for staff at restaurants that are used to moving at a more leisurely pace.
Comprehensive training programs and hiring experienced drive-thru personnel can help. Regularly review and refine operational processes as your staff learns.
Depending on where your restaurant is located and what the local traffic is like, traffic issues can be a serious deterrent to installing drive-thru lanes. Backed-up lanes aren't good for business. You also run the risk of a citation from your local government for blocking city roads with drive-thru lines.
An efficient drive-thru lane design, ideally with dual lanes, can help manage the flow of vehicles. Setting aside a lane for customers who have ordered ahead of time or requiring all customers to order before going to pick up their food can do a lot to keep the line short, even when business is booming.
Restaurant owners may worry that incorporating a drive-thru will be a wrench thrown into their quality control. Any mistakes in orders are a lot harder to mediate in a drive-thru environment, when the customer has already left with their food before they realize there's a problem.
The emphasis on speed in drive-thrus should not come at the expense of food quality. Rigorous quality checks, streamlined cooking processes, and regular customer feedback maintain high standards.
Encourage customers to share feedback after placing a mobile order drive-thru request so you can find out if they are happy with their order.
While drive-thrus offer speed and convenience, they tend to lack the personal touch of dine-in experiences. Quick yet effective customer interaction techniques and personalized order suggestions can ensure customers feel valued.
Revel Systems offers a suite of features tailored to amplify drive-thru efficiency and adapt to any restaurant’s needs.
Integrate drive-thru order systems fluidly with digital menu boards, speed-of-service timers, and mobile order takers. Drive thru technology flawlessly combines with Revel's established POS platform, so you can launch your contactless drive-thru and start seeing increased profits immediately.
Revel's drive-thru offerings are highly customizable. From branded digital display boards to integrated POS terminals at the drive-thru window, you can craft solutions that align with your unique requirements.
If you’re looking to increase drive-thru efficiency for your brand, contact us today for more information about our drive thru offerings!