If you build it, will they come?
The idea of adding a drive-thru section to a restaurant appeals to many business owners. However, having the capacity (and resources) to add one does not necessarily mean that you should.
So how will you know if a drive-thru section is right for your establishment?
Before committing to a decision, you need to look at your restaurant’s concept. Some concepts don’t exactly work well with a drive-thru provision.
You have to remember that customers expect faster service from a drive-thru, so if it takes several minutes to prepare a meal for a dine-in customer, it is highly likely that a drive-thru will not be a good fit.
You also have to take into consideration what resources you currently have. If you do not have sufficient human resources as well as the necessary system, you can only end up frustrating customers and hurting your establishment’s image.
While you are still mulling over the idea of adding a drive-thru option, you should look at other restaurants that have a similar concept as yours. If these restaurants don’t have a drive-thru area, it is highly likely that adding one won’t work for you.
You’ve done your due diligence. You’ve reviewed your employee timesheet management system, and it says you have more than enough employees to spare for a drive-thru. You have enough profits that you can funnel to build one. Your establishment’s concept meshes well with a drive-thru. Now what?
If you have decided that adding a drive-thru is the next inevitable step that you need to take to grow your business further, then the next thing that to do is to design it.
Designing a drive-thru area is by no means an easy feat. Apart from maximizing efficiency and optimizing traffic flow, you also need to take into account a few critical matters. These include customer comfort and guest experience.
In designing an effective drive-thru ordering system, there are a few things that you need to do right:
Simply put, your customers need to know that you now have a drive-thru section, so you should have the proper signage to lead them to that area.
You should designate a spot near the drive-thru area where customers can look at your menu while waiting in line.
The pre-selling area does not only boost efficiency. More importantly, you can use your message to influence your customers to choose specific products that you want to give a big push to.
The order station is the first point of contact between your employees and your customers. Here, it is vital to optimize the placement of the menu.
Ideally, the menu should be clearly visible and must have the right combination of text and images.
To boost sales and help customers in their decision-making, you can place strategically designed exterior signage. You can even add signage that highlights exclusive or limited time offers.
One signage that you shouldn’t forget is the “thank you” sign. This helps boost guest experience and ends the customer interaction on a positive note.
Branding is all about building relationships anchored upon trust.
For drive-thrus, you should take advantage of your menu boards and signs to reinforce your branding.
Your drive-thru customers (typically, most of them) are in a hurry. And the last thing that you’d want to do is to keep them waiting.
After designing the optimal drive-thru system, the next order of business is to keep waiting time at the lowest possible number. Here are a few tips that will help you achieve that goal:
Consider using digital signage for your drive-thru area. Digital signs are sturdy, highly visible, and cannot be easily vandalized.
Working with an app developer, you can launch a mobile app that can take orders. This gives your team ample time to prep orders while customers can readily pick up their meals without waiting too long.
If you do launch an app for mobile orders, consider using a separate space for these orders instead of using a drive-thru area for both.
Mistakes can happen anywhere during the ordering process. These mistakes can substantially increase waiting times and should be kept at a minimum. One way to reduce errors is to put up a visual order confirmation display area.
Despite your best efforts to optimize your drive-thru system, there will be peak hours when your staff can barely keep up with orders.
The best workaround for this conundrum is to send employees outside during peak times. These employees can provide support to the drive-thru team by taking orders. For this task, consider using tablets that have been integrated into your POS system.
Adding a drive-thru system can boost profits and enhance the guest experience at your restaurant. However, done incorrectly, it could also increase customer frustration and hurt your establishment’s reputation.
Your drive-thru area should be efficient and effective to ensure your success.
Ahmad Alzaini is the co-founder and CEO of Foodics, a fast-growing foodtech startup. A businessman by nature, Alzaini is an app aficionado, developing businesses in Saudi Arabia within several industries. Today, Foodics has extended to new markets across the MENA region, processing over 1 billion transactions, and offering the latest technology in POS and restaurant management.