Before 2020, when you needed a quick drive thru meal, the phrase “what do you want to eat?” was based on what you had a taste for. The options, depending on location, were endless. Today, businesses are undergoing drive thru optimizations to help consumers who are faced with an added level of decision-making based on what drive thru restaurants can serve food in the safest, most efficient manner.
Over the course of 2020 and into 2021, the use of drive thrus skyrocketed, while restaurants without drive thrus struggled with ways to meet their customers’ changing needs. Although many establishments rushed to provide new curbside solutions, quick serve restaurants were readily able to pivot to adjust to the new normal. While drive thru optimizations are not new, businesses are quickly implementing new operations based on their customers changing preferences and providing greater efficiencies to increase profitably.
Due to the fact that many quick serve restaurants with drive thrus were one of the only options that remained open during the early stages of the shutdown, companies began to equip their drive thru lanes with safety solutions to make consumers feel more comfortable, resulting in a 43% increase in utilization in a short timeframe.
Keeping safety in mind, it was also the innovative thinking of many quick serve restaurant groups that added to their success. Many businesses looked at the challenge of how higher ordering volume could be handled more efficiently. According to a report by Bluedot, the increase in app usage to purchase food helped businesses like Chipotle create an effective, profitable strategy for order-ahead and pick-up via drive thru.
As in any industry, there are always businesses that are ahead of the curve and pioneering the way consumers interact with their brands. Two examples of companies that are changing the way drive thrus work are Starbucks and Chick-fil-A.
Adding artificial intelligence to their ordering platform, Starbucks customers are able to see the barista taking their order while their platform “Deep Brew” is able to make order recommendations based on the time of day and weather. Chick-fil-A, a company that prides itself on quality and customer service, uses multiple drive thru lanes and employees outfitted with tablets and PPE so customers still see a smiling face while placing an order. Both brands are putting their customers’ needs first by increasing the number of lanes at their stores, with Starbucks looking to increase drive thru only stores in the future.
4 Ways to Take Advantage of the Growing Drive Thru Preference
Since 2021, the restaurant industry has seen an uptick in construction, mainly focused on building out or expanding drive thru lanes through drive thru optimization. Many quick serve restaurants saw such an increase in customer ordering volume that evaluating their drive thru operations was imperative to their success. With customers focused on contactless ordering and pick-up experience, quick serve restaurants need options that fit into their existing locations and most certainly into their options. Kicking off a drive thru optimization program is not one-size-fits-all, which is why it’s important for quick serve restaurants to know there are many options to reach their end goals. Knowing the end result is to streamline the ordering process, offer customers a sense of safety, and maintain profitability, we have put together four recommendations to suit all your drive thru needs.
If your drive thru is not already equipped to handle increased customer volume, it may be time to plan for a drive thru optimization program. While undergoing a drive thru remodel may seem intimidating, working with an experienced partner like Stratus allows you to put the focus back on your customer while we focus on implementing solutions that will increase traffic flow and ordering efficiencies. A typical optimization program focuses on all the exterior and interior elements that will keep your drive thru moving. Common elements include outdoor menu boards optimization; adding additional drive thru lanes with parking lot construction, sidewalks, concrete, electrical retrofits, Cat 5 installations, and interior and exterior remodel components such as additional ordering window installation; and all interior and exterior signage needed to effectively guide customers.
Implement a drive thru optimization program as an efficient pickup system
This recommendation is hyper-focused on a complete remodel that would include reconfiguring an existing or lack of drive thru system. During this remodel, all branding elements would be evaluated for the program’s success. An overhaul of the interior and exterior signage, parking lot structure, concrete curbs, and sidewalks, as well as the outdoor menu boards and all its electrical components, including Cat 6, would be installed.
Make existing drive thrus more efficient
This recommendation is for a drive thru that may be in perfect working order but needs to accommodate a higher volume of customers. Choosing to retrofit an existing drive thru could be as simple as adding an additional lane to move customers in and out or take your drive thru experience to a new level with the installation of a state-of-the-art outdoor menu board system.
Implement curbside/mobile pickup order solutions
Curbside and mobile pick-up solutions are just one of the ways restaurants have adapted to meet consumers’ changing needs. With Stratus’ nationwide capabilities and innovative branding solutions, we are able to partner with restaurants to continuously meet changing demands of their customers. By providing interior and exterior signage needs, energy saving measures, and refresh & remodel solutions, our team is able to execute drive thru optimizations that not only streamline the ordering process but also assist your customers in easily navigating through their ordering process.
Make it an engaging experience with your brand
The overall appearance of your dining locations is important. Over time, it’s natural for the physical aspects of a facility to become worn down. Tiles on the floor might break, or the grout might become irreversibly stained. Walls and other surfaces might show years of wear. Counters, benches, and restrooms might start to look a little dingy. Eventually, these elements will need to be replaced or revitalized. Signage systems may also start to wear down, and the lamps or panels that comprise their construction might need to be cleaned or replaced. An efficient preventive maintenance program goes a long way in keeping these physical aspects of your restaurant brand alive and well rather than being the first thing patrons see when they arrive for what they’d hoped would be a pleasant meal.
No matter which recommendation you choose, partnering with Stratus on a drive thru optimization program will allow for complete oversight with a partner who understands all the branding details of your location inside and out. Knowing what makes a drive thru optimization program successful, our team is able to execute a detailed calendar to mitigate downtime while providing full turnkey resources for optimum site performance.
A Great Drive Thru Optimization Experiences Begins with Stratus
Built on a 100-year foundation in brand implementation across multiple industries, we understand the impact that signage, lighting, interior and exterior appearance, and more have on drive thrus and their patrons. As your brand implementation partner, we’ll stand by your side at all times — providing you with recommendations, expertise, metrics, and more that help you deepen your connections with patrons so they continue to support your restaurant for years to come.
Whether we’re assisting you with a multi-site signage upgrade or repair program, a complete remodel of your interiors, the installation of social distancing solutions, a retrofit for your exterior lighting to make it more luminous and efficient, or optimizations to your drive thru flow, our team brings decades of restaurant industry experience to the table. That knowledge is backed by in-house signage manufacturing capabilities, advanced project management, technology and reporting tools, a vast network of field partners with proven performance, and a relentless focus on the success of your brand.
Now more than ever, it’s critical to not only provide a safe, efficient, and unmatched restaurant customer experience but also work with a partner that can help you deliver it consistently across your entire footprint. If you’re ready to experience ideal solutions from the infinite possibilities available to your restaurant brand, our team is ready to work with you.