With no occupancy limits and minimal contact, drive-thru service has been critical to QSR success through the pandemic and will continue to be crucial going forward. Drive-thru visits increased by 26% in April, May and June of last year. Due to the increase in demand, drive-thru times slowed down by nearly 30 seconds across 10 national fast-food restaurants, according to CNBC.
With surging demand for drive-thru, restaurants have been challenged with improving efficiency while keeping customers and their employees safe. Here are some of the most common ways we’ve seen restaurants improve drive-thru operations:
1. Mobile Deployments for Drive-Thru Linebusting
In 2020 we saw a sharp increase in the rapid deployment of mobile tablets. For example, one leading restaurant chain deployed Samsung tablets and Bluetooth payment terminals to enable staff to take customers’ orders and payment in the drive-thru lane. With staff working the drive-thru lane outside, the window can be used just for pickup and the team can serve customers in line faster.
2. Customizable Mobile Device Cases
Once restaurants put staff and tablets outside in the line to take orders, a few issues came up:
- How will they hold the device?
- Will they drop it?
- Will they be able to see the screen in the sun?
Custom, rugged tablet cases with shoulder straps, belts, sun visors and menu rings have helped restaurants address those challenges and improve ease of use for their staff.
3. Safety Equipment and PPE
Safety equipment and PPE are key to keeping employees and guests safe in the drive-thru. From staples like masks and gloves to plastic guards and shields, PPE minimizes exposure for everyone in the drive-thru.
In addition to PPE, safety equipment like safety vests and fluorescent straps help identify personnel and keep them safe from traffic while they work in the drive-thru lane.
4. Contactless Payment and Pickup at the Window
Enabling contactless payment and pickup in the drive-thru lane included both advanced technological deployments as well as simple manual solutions. From a technology standpoint, we saw an increase in payment terminal refreshes at drive-thru windows and restaurants enabling payment via mobile apps.
More simple solutions included extendable poles for payment terminals and plastic trays for passing food to guests.
5. Additional Long-Term Solutions
The pandemic also inspired long-term, major innovations for drive-thrus. For example, many restaurants are deploying digital menu boards. Some leading chains have taken it a step further, completely revamping their drive-thrus to add more lanes or create separate lanes for mobile order pickup.
While we’re seeing an increase in vaccinations and the beginning of a return to normalcy, consumers still feel safer in the drive-thru than entering restaurants, so fast-food restaurants can continue to expect increased traffic through 2021 and beyond. Going forward, QSRs will continue innovating to accommodate consumer demands for safety and on-the-go options as well as operationalizing new methods for efficiency.
Contact us to learn how we can help you accomplish your next drive-thru technology deployment.