Digital Demands Reshape the Drive-Thru

Hospitality Technology – Customers look for speed and accuracy when they place an order and pick up food at a restaurant drive-thru, and they want an overall satisfying customer service experience. It’s estimated that 50 to 70 percent of fast food sales occur at the drive-thru, states NPD Group, so it’s no surprise that operators are dedicated to “getting it right,” which often means installing the latest technology to help them do so.

“The drive-thru has become more of an important vehicle for sales transactions,” says Brendan Berg, vice president of OPS services at Church’s Chicken, based in Atlanta with more than 1,150 locations in the United States and more than 500 internationally. “People want to get in and out for an individual meal, and the expectations are higher than ever before.”

Whether its updating speakers and headsets, drive-thru timers or digital menu boards, there are a variety of technologies operators can employ to improve the drive-thru experience. The near future offers innovations beyond the traditional technologies. For example, customer service will be directly affected by technologies that will allow operators to physically identify a customer as he pulls up to the restaurant — either by the car or the person driving it, notes Scott Langdoc, vice president of Boston Retail Partners (BRP), a consulting firm based in Boston.

“We have seen the most progress in the area of vehicle identification, especially with those experimenting with order-ahead technology,” he says, adding digital menu boards are another area seeing advancement. “Whether it’s for pricing, promotions or menu changes from breakfast to lunch and back again, digital menu boards is an area we think holds great potential for investment.”

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