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Drive-Thru 101: How to Increase Profits

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In the United States, drive-thru restaurants are a common concept among the greater population. People enjoy the convenience of not having to exit their vehicle while they can pick up their favorite meal. In 1948, the first restaurant drive-thru was created in Baldwin Park, California. It was a 100 square foot burger shack which grew to today’s popular chain called In-N-Out Burger. Despite the first drive-thru’s success, large national chains were slow to adopt the concept. It wasn’t until 22 years after In-N-Out’s success that McDonald’s decided to open their first drive-thru. Since the beginning, drive-thru restaurants have been able to increase their overall profitability by maximizing their order volume. Why would you not want an opportunity that allows you to take and fill more orders in a shorter amount of time?

Building a successful drive-thru can be easier said than done. People want to see accuracy and superior timing. You don’t want your customers running out of gas while they are sitting in your drive-thru. Having your customers drive away without a straw, napkins, or their favorite sauce is also never a good idea. The smallest detail can leave customers with a bad taste in their mouth, and not want to return. Implementing a drive-thru either before or after your restaurant has opened can increase your labor costs, but history shows that it is a great way to boost your revenue. Continue reading for different best practices in running a successful drive-thru restaurant.

Fast Ordering Times
People grow more impatient on a daily basis. If customers had it their way, they would order, and poof their food would appear. That is the reason why people go to drive-thru restaurants. They want their food in the quickest amount of time possible. The best way to handle that would be to think of your kitchen as an assembly line. You should have minimal interactions at the window with the customer, while your assembly is taking care of order. Remember a trip to the window to give change takes time, and then add more time to pass off food, and even condiments can further increase your drive-thru delivery time. For example, you should stick with more than one drink in a food carrier instead of handing individual drinks to the customer. You should have a set system in place before you let your first customer roll through.

Order Accuracy
To be a top-performing restaurant that has a drive-thru, you don’t just want to deliver the fastest order, but also the most accurate order. If you don’t deliver the most accurate order, then what is the point? People don’t get what they want and paid for. There are many instances where people will drive away without looking at their order they received. They get home and see they got the wrong order and end up throwing it away. With a drive-thru option, it’s important your employees are trained on the essentials first, and specials later. The reason is, most people know or have something on the back of their mind that they want to order. Usually, people who want chicken go to Chick Fil A, and people looking for a cheeseburger go to McDonald’s. So if your main focus is Cheeseburgers, focus on the cheeseburgers, not the chicken sandwich. It’s where your main customer base will come from, and keeping the focus will improve order accuracy.

Organized Layout
Just like you want an organized kitchen, you also want an organized drive-thru layout. If your outside isn’t organized, you could have people jamming into one another and causing serious accidents with their motor vehicles. When you have a smooth wrap-around drive-through line that guides your guests can keep your kitchen orders in line. If your business is booming, you can always consider implementing parallel ordering stations. McDonald’s is a notable franchise that has these at most locations. That way, they can take double the amount of orders, and people don’t get clogged waiting in line. If your line is too long, it can steer away from potential customers.

The Right Technology
There is never anything worse than pulling up to a drive-thru and having a hard time hearing the employee taking your order, or hearing your customer. You should want to ensure that you have a solid ordering system in place that not only makes it easy for the people on either side of the ordering process, but also for your kitchen. You should consider investing in order confirmation board so your customers get reassurance that you completely understood their order. This also lets customers get a visual of what they ordered and if they would like to add anything to it.

Consider Having Outside Employees Take Orders
This means having employees stand out in the line and take orders from drivers. More drive-thru restaurants should be practicing this concept more often. Isn’t the whole goal of a drive-thru getting the most people through your window in the shortest amount of time? With today’s technology, you can give your employees tablets to take the orders, and have them feed into a POS system. It’s probably not a pretty site when your drive-thru is starting to wrap around your building for the second time.

Drive-thru restaurants are dominating the restaurant industry. Many restaurateurs are reeling in the profits by incorporating this additional opportunity. Today, it’s not just the average fast-food restaurant that has a drive-thru. Starbucks has influenced other more upscale brands to have a drive-thru, and they love the feedback. If you are thinking of opening or implementing a fast food drive-thru, ensure you have a powerhouse assembly line of employees that are ready to take on the necessary speed and accuracy to increase the restaurant’s profits.

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