Differentiating the Restaurant Drive-through Experience

Drive-through windows at restaurants have remained popular despite environmental pressure to conserve gas and energy.

Technology has helped to make communicating with drivers and restaurant staff easier, and a restaurant’s staff can adjust and update digital menu boards throughout the day. Customers can use their smartphones to preorder and prepay, store their food preferences and facilitate placing orders and picking up food.

Drive-through Technology for More Sales & Better Service

Drive-throughs offer better menu displays, easier ordering and more personalized service by using digital technology. Even little changes in the drive-through experience can add up to big profits for restaurateurs. Managers are using mobile apps, digital displays and better trained staff to deliver a better ordering experience to each customer.

Mobile Apps Enhance Service

Mobile ordering allows customers to place their orders before getting in line. Apps can use GPS information to synchronize having the order ready when a car arrives to get the food. Customers can even prepay for their orders, so all they need to do is pick up their order.

With smartphone payment systems gaining in popularity, it is only a matter of time before Apple Pay and Google Wallet are available at drive-throughs, speeding up service immensely. It will be much like EZ-pass has revolutionized highway tolls.

Digital Signage and Touchscreens

Customers can read digital signs and touchscreens more easily from their cars or order from their phones at the drive-through. Touchscreens allow customers more advanced ordering options without needing to know the details of placing an order. All people need to do is touch the food they want and plus or minus condiments, sides, dressings and sandwich fixings.

Digital signs eliminate the problems of using static signs that plagued restaurant drive-throughs in the past. Restaurants can update their menus throughout the day, remove products that are out of stock and promote specials or slow-moving items. Customers can connect through automatic loyalty and rewards programs without needing to clip coupons or present loyalty cards.

Saving Gas and Getting Personal Service

Advanced technology frees employees from entering orders, so the staff has more time to engage customers or provide special services. Drivers could park in the lot, and runners could bring the food directly to cars. Mobile apps allow customers to place standing orders or new orders days in advance to pick up at specified times.

Storing Valuable Intelligence About Customers

Using phone numbers, loyalty accounts or vehicle information, restaurants can gather information about customer preferences at the drive-through for mobile marketing, coupon offers and messages about upcoming events, menu changes and other restaurant news.

Drive-throughs Satisfy a Range of Customers

Thousands of potential customers don’t want to get dressed or take the kids to pick up food at restaurants. More responsive drive-through windows allow carryout customers to get the same level of service as visitors to the restaurant. Restaurants are responding to customer preferences for using drive-throughs in hundreds of unique ways. Possible differentiating strategies for drive-throughs include:

  • Making sure to include all appropriate condiments, napkins and plastic ware with each order
  • Giving customers time to confirm their orders on touch-screen displays
  • Offering the traditional diversions for entertaining kids at the drive-through window
  • Correcting mistakes quickly and making it easy for customers to confirm their orders before leaving the window
  • Providing healthy pet treats for dogs in the cars
  • Delivering better presentations for carryout foods
  • Providing customers with special offers and personalized coupons and rewards
  • Offering 24-hour window service or extended hours

Using High-tech Drive-Through

Drive-throughs have changed how restaurants operate and customers order food. Some restaurants never considered the advantages of opening a drive-through window because of complicated menus, the perception that windows are only for fast food and the need to change menus and daily specials often. Digital signs and mobile ordering make running a drive-through window simpler and more profitable for all types of restaurants.

Employees wearing wireless headsets can take orders while continuing to work at other tasks. Any available staff member can take the next order. Mobile apps even allow customers to place orders directly.

Restaurateurs can increase profits by pursuing an active carryout business at drive-through windows. Differentiating a restaurant’s drive-through service with technology saves payroll costs, provides better service and helps to brand the restaurant with customers.