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How to Provide Better Drive-Thru Customer Service

Drive thrus have stayed popular with customers who want a hassle-free, quick way to buy their food. Right now, they are gaining more popularity with a segment of customers that is looking to practice social distancing.

Creating a drive thru service should be seen as a long term strategic investment. It takes capital to construct the drive thru area and to purchase the hardware to provide the service along with a training budget to equip your staff. Here are a few things you should consider when opening a drive thru or looking to improve your already established service:

  1. Speed matters – That’s why customers chose not to park and go inside, to save time. Your service must be quicker than ordering from inside.
  2. Keep it simple – Simplifying the orders, ordering process, payments, and dispatch makes your service easier and quicker for both customers and staff.
  3. Get the orders right – A drive thru has less room for errors. A wrong order is not only frustrating to the customer but also everyone else waiting in line. All of them expected to be in and out quickly. Should the odd error occur, then fix it quickly.
  4. The staff is essential – The employees who operate the station have to be specifically trained for the position. The station must always be manned, so a rotation must take place even for bathroom breaks.
  5. Keep the area clean – That includes the outside area; nobody wants to get food from a place that isn’t tidy or looks unhygienic.

Adopt an App

Building your own app gives you a direct communication channel to your customers. It is not only useful for marketing, but it can be used to create a database of your customers. You can use this data to make more informed decisions. You can also:

  • Sell through the app,
  • Promote events,
  • Have customers participate in activities like competitions while mobile,
  • Display new menu items or share recipes, and
  • Build a loyalty program.

Adding order and payment options in your app makes it convenient for both your restaurant and customers. They can order ahead of time and merely pick it up. They also don’t need to carry cash or cards to make a purchase.

Buy the Right Communication Hardware

When a customer pulls up to your location, your restaurant should be ready to give and receive information. Quality communication hardware makes service better and adds to the customer experience. The required equipment includes:

  • Signage so that customers know that there is a drive thru,
  • Video and motion sensors to alert staff of customer arrivals,
  • Clear directions and pathway to the drive thru area,
  • Drive thru menu board that informs customers of the meals, combinations, and prices, and
  • State-of-the-art intercom and headsets for restaurant employees for two-way communication.

Don’t Skip Out on Digital Signage

Communication is more than taking an order and confirming it. Communication in the restaurant starts outside. Everything has to be designed to inform the customer and make the purchase as simple as possible.

Digital signage gives your restaurant an edge. It’s stylish, head-turning, and very functional. It allows you to change menus on the fly like quickly change designs, come up with new meal combinations, change prices, or run promotions.

Install an Order Confirmation Screen

A popular feature among drive thru customers is an order confirmation screen. Connecting it to the drive thru’s POS terminal enables the customer to confirm their order before it is processed. This reduces order errors that can cause delays and long ques. It also empowers the customer; they can be more sure of their order and budget.

Tweak Your Menu

What you serve at a drive thru is very important. Often times, it is very different to what people order inside. Most customers want a quick, easy meal, so your menu options must reflect that. Keep your menu short and simple and try to focus on the meals that bring in 80 percent of your revenue.

Packaging also plays an important role. It must hold everything together without creating a mess; nobody wants stains in their car. Packaging must also be designed to eat on the go as it is likely that your customers will eat the food in the car.

Throughout Employee Training

Employees are key to any restaurant’s brand. They are whom customers see making and serving the food. Their mannerisms, character, hygiene, and neatness add to your brand. To ensure success, they need training that emphasizes that they:

  • Focus on short, clear communication with customers,
  • Focus on speed and efficiency,
  • Anticipate customer needs (cutlery, napkins, cup holders, etc.),
  • Be aware of drive thru upselling tactics,
  • Take correct orders,
  • Always maintain a clean workspace, and
  • Work together as a well-oiled team.

Prepare for Peak Hours

Drive thrus are meant to be quick and painless. Having a traffic jam in your own restaurant is frustrating to the driving customers and unpleasant to the seated ones. Your restaurant must be able to anticipate demand and prepare for it. It should also have contingency plans for those unexpected surges in demand.

As a rule of thumb, there shouldn’t be more than four to five cars lined up at your drive thru. This requires a lot of preparation, like having the drive thru manned by trained staff and ensuring a constant presence at the drive thru window.

Drive-Thru to Success

A drive thru should be considered as a strategic decision and not just a novelty. It allows you to serve more customers, much more quickly using no extra seating space. Coupled with an app, the drive-through experience can be made even more efficient and smarter. As with any restaurant operation, the staff will determine how effective your drive thru strategy is. Keep all of the above points in mind, and your customers will thank you for it.

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