14 Ways to Improve Efficiency and Speed at the Drive-Thru Window

Over 50% of QSR traffic today is via the drive-through lanes. Drive-through customers have five key expectations: accuracy, speed, value, quality and service. Here’s 14 ways to meet and exceed their expectations: 1.Make all your processes designed for speed and accuracy.  This helps ensure no wasted time, movement or effort by employees.
2.Data tracking and measurement.  Set objectives; track and measure data.  Share data with employees so that they are aware of the order accuracy, drive-thru speed targets and what they need to improve on. Don’t just benchmark your scores and times against the company, measure it against your competitors too.
3.Training and development.  Train staff and management on menu knowledge.  The cashier/order-taker must quickly assist guests and be an expert on each menu item. See out Training section for ideas on how to improve product knowledge.
4.Packaging routines.  Have a system in place to provide napkins, straws and condiments close-at-hand, eliminating waste and enhancing the speed of operations.
5.People and technology synergy.  Use the right blend of technology and training.  A headset or a microphone for key staff allows production personnel to begin preparing orders prior to order printing.  Ensure that every employee knows how to use these items.
6.Manager leadership.  Guide and empower managers to improve performance in several ways, including daily communication and training, tracking and communicating time and accuracy each hour, and using incentives to hit goals.
7.Message repeaters/greeters.  Wireless communication systems can reduce service time by about 24 percent, or nearly one minute per car, resulting in significantly faster service than restaurants that use a face-to-face ordering method.
8.Modern speaker system.  Poor-quality speaker systems and the resulting noise distraction cause anxiety for consumers.  Noise-reduction technology can improve order accuracy by 40 percent and quicken service times by as much as 12 seconds per car.
9.Digital Displays. Increase speed of decision-making and upselling with digital display ordering screens.
10.Speed-of-service timers/polling systems.  Strategically using drive-thru speed-of-service timers allows QSRs to set, measure and evaluate service times and performance.
11.Order confirmation boards.  These improve order accuracy by displaying real-time order information, including prices, and are an effective marketing tool for delivering selling messages. (see #9)
12.Cashless payment.  Benefits include increased speed and sales and improved customer satisfaction.  A recent study showed that customers spend 25.2 percent more when paying with a credit card.
13.Pre-sell menu boards.  These are one of the most cost-effective ways to increase speed and sales.  Boards can be static or digital, and ideally feature combos or high-margin menu items.  Of the QSR chains with 80 percent penetration of pre-sell boards, three are ranked in the top five for “fastest total time.”
14.Combo-focused menu boards.  A critical factor in combo-meal orders and drive-thru consumer satisfaction is visual communication at the menu board.
15.Customer experiential elements.  Increasing the overall guest experience is a key area of opportunity.  There are several ways to improve the overall drive-thru consumer experience:Landscaping upgradeUpkeep of buildings and surroundingsDrive-thru directional signageNewspaper boxesBranding and values displayKEEP THE WINDOW EXCHANGE AREA NEAT AND CLEAN!
Source:  Adapted from Sullivision.com archives and Coca-Cola Refreshing News
Jim Sullivan is the CEO of Sullivision.com and a popular consultant, author and speaker at manager conferences worldwide.
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