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Restaurants Vie for Bigger Share of Drive-Through Sales

Drive-Through Delight  A lingering effect of the pandemic is transforming the competitive landscape for fast-food restaurants — customers’ appetite for drive-through meals. A desire for convenience has replaced health worries as the No. 1 motivator for drive-through customers, but diners’ appetite for swift, contactless service has not waned. And competition is intensifying as full-service chains […]

May 23, 2024
Drive-Through Delight

Drive-Through Delight 

A lingering effect of the pandemic is transforming the competitive landscape for fast-food restaurants — customers’ appetite for drive-through meals.

A desire for convenience has replaced health worries as the No. 1 motivator for drive-through customers, but diners’ appetite for swift, contactless service has not waned. And competition is intensifying as full-service chains such as Applebees expand aggressively into the drive-through space.

Here are a few technological innovations that will help separate winners from losers in the drive-through sector.

Drive-Through Technological Innovations

Multiple Drive-Through Lanes:
Some operators are converting single-lane drive-throughs into multi-lane, order-filling superhighways. Taco Bell opened a two-story, four-lane drive-through in Minnesota in 2022, with a contactless delivery system that transports food to drivers from a second-story kitchen. Customers can choose different lanes to collect pre-orders or order on site, and food can be delivered via robotic lifts. McDonald’s has since opened a test restaurant in Texas that allows customers to place orders via a two-lane drive-through, an app, or self-service kiosks on site.

Customer Analytics:
Some operators are installing video cameras in drive-through lanes to track repeat customers by reading license plates, enabling restaurants to tailor menu items to individuals’ tastes. According to Interface Systems, a service provider, the technology also can track how many drivers drop out of long waiting lines, helping restaurants staff up for busy periods.

Intelligent Menus:
New personalized digital menu boards are connected to the cloud and can change pricing and product availability based on information received from other apps at the restaurant. They also enable fast-food operators to accept electronic payments and redeem customers’ reward points while they order.

Gamification for Order Takers:
Taking order after order can be boring for employees, so some operators are making a game of it. New gamification apps turn tracking key performance indicators into a challenge for employees. Workers can see whether they are improving their productivity or quality of service, encouraging a significant increase in employee engagement.

Restaurant Robots:
As labor shortages continue to burden restaurant operators, a growing number are using robots to serve customers and perform basic kitchen tasks. In one noteworthy example, the Sweetgreen salad chain uses robots to measure and serve ingredients in bowls along an assembly line. Several other restaurants, including White Castle and Wing Zone, are using a kitchen robot called Flippy to automate food preparation.

Taken together, these tech trends promise a fast-changing experience for the growing number of drive-through diners seeking speedy, convenient service.

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If you have any questions about franchising, please contact the experienced franchise and business law attorneys at West Coast Franchise Law today at (206) 903-0401 to discuss your situation. Nate Riordan is a 2023 Franchise and Bankruptcy Super Lawyer with over 20 years expertise helping clients achieve their business goals.