Servicing customers in the drive-thru lanes is paramount for many Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) and fast casual brands. In fact, for many brands, the large majority of their business comes through the drive-thru lanes, as much as 60-70%.

Creating and maintaining a booming drive-thru business is always top of mind for restaurants, but they need to make sure to service their drive-thru customers quickly and avoid long, intimidating lines. Chick-fil-A’s CEO says “30% of people drive away because the chain’s drive-thru lines are so long” (source). No one  can afford to lose that business.

Drive-thru lines are also causing constant traffic and safety issues, blocking streets and sidewalks, and polluting the air with idling cars for extended periods of time. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, private vehicles waste 3 billion gallons of fuel each year through idling, which adds about 15 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year (source).

Being efficient while servicing dine-in, takeout, delivery, and drive-thru customers is not easy, but some brands are cracking the case. Here are a few methods that are proven to  prevent long drive-thru lines, unhappy customers, and overwhelmed employees.

long drive-thru line

Use technology to bust the queue and improve throughput.

Technology can often make the employee’s job easier, and improve the customer’s experience. There are several potential bottlenecks in the drive-thru: loyalty or coupon redemption, order fulfillment/cook times, and juggling order-ahead and on-site ordering customers amidst a full drive-thru queue. Finding the right solution for your brand can be easy.

Brands can leverage technology, like Flybuy Drive-Thru, to automatically check-in customers to pick up orders, redeem loyalty points or offers and properly sequence customers  as they place their order.  Implemented automation like this can save  an average of 20 seconds per customer.  This saved time translates directly into increased throughput, more orders and increased sales. 

In fact, data shows that for every 6 seconds saved in the drive-thru, sales increases by 1%. Additionally, by knowing when an incoming order-ahead customer is arriving, restaurants can automatically fire an order in the kitchen for just-in-time handoff at the pickup window for additional savings in labor, customer time, care idling time and remake orders. 

Give customers the option to order and pay ahead and create a “virtual drive-thru.”

Having two drive-thru lanes is ideal, dedicating one for order-ahead customers and one for traditional drive-thru customers. However, this is simply not an option for many restaurants. Adding multiple pickup options does not have to be a big lift, nor does it mean more labor.

A tech-forward off-premise solution, such as Flybuy Pickup, can send your employees alerts when the customer is en route, nearby, on property, and exactly which “pickup zone” they are in. Virtual pickup zones and a virtual drive-thru lane can be customized based on each location and can consist of parking spaces in the lot, inside the restaurant, or in the drive-thru line or pickup window. You can see their exact location on a map and promptly hand off the order. Furthermore, customers will be automatically checked-in and often paid in advance, saving more time and allowing for more throughput without additional labor or real estate. 

The bottom line is that customers do not like to wait and long lines turn away sales.f your drive-thru lines are not conducive to mobile order-ahead and on-site ordering, look into alternative handoff methods to offset the drive-thru. Take a look at this chart: the longer customers wait, the less satisfied they are, and the less likely they are to come back.

customers are three times more likely to reorder if they wait less than two minutes.

Position staff in the Drive-Thru.

Having staff in the drive-thru lines taking orders with tablets in a “Face-to-Face” model can help move customers through the process faster than a single speaker box order point. This adds an element of personalization, and enables restaurants to take multiple orders at one time instead of waiting for each customer to get to the call box. However, loyalty identification and checking-in still requires a conversation and takes time.

This can be completely automated. The Flybuy Face to Face Drive-Thru technology leverages the staff’s tablet to identify the exact location of each customer within the queue  to provide personalized ordering options and prompt loyalty redemption so the staff can focus less on taking loyalty and offer codes for check-in and focus on ordering and sequencing in the process.

How can Flybuy Drive-Thru help your brand?

Flybuy is dedicated to helping restaurants achieve operational excellence. Flybuy Drive-Thru was designed to reshape the current drive-thru model with innovation and automation. Seconds saved in the drive-thru line means greater customer throughput and an increase in sales. Whether it be for order pickup, loyalty identification, or offer redemption at the drive-thru, Flybuy streamlines the entire process. 

“We offer a solution that can significantly increase the speed of service, which translates into more customers, less turn-aways, and real dollars,” says Radius Networks’ CEO Marc Wallace. ‘Our goal is to help our partners increase throughput, decrease wait time, improve staff efficiency, and, most importantly, drive incremental revenue.”

Flybuy Drive-Thru can reduce wait times by at least 15 to 20 seconds per customer.