Consumer demand for drive-thru has spurred QSR and fast casual brands to revisit their store development plans, adding drive-thrus and contactless pickup options to their new designs.
- Taco Bell Go Mobile restaurants, coming in Q1 '21, will have two drive-thru lanes including a new priority pick-up lane for customers who order via the Taco Bell app.
- Shake Shack plans to debut its first drive-thru next year (and is adding walk-up windows.)
- Starbucks is enhancing the drive-thru and is considering a double lane drive-thru, or drive-thru plus curbside pickup.
- About 70% of new Chipotles will have digital pickup lanes.
Best in Class Drive-Thru
The contactless drive-thru experience is here to stay, says Rakuten Ready, pointing to Chick-Fil-A and Taco Bell as two brands that have rolled out best-in-class contactless drive-thru experiences across their U.S. locations.
Both brands: 1. Encourage customers to order online or via the brand app that provides a contactless payment and order solution; 2. Confirm orders via a mobile receipt or QR code shown through the window; 3. Ensure the cashiers never handle food; 4. Have a dedicated “food-only” employee who hands off food without contact.
For maximum efficiency, brands with double drive-thru windows should consider changing the “pay-only” window to an “order ahead only” with a pullaway lane, suggests Rakuten Ready. Customers who ordered online or via the app can pick up their food at the first window and exit the drive-thru via a designated pullaway lane that shortens wait times and decreases bottlenecks.
Data science consulting firm Strategywise estimates a pullaway lane would reduce the average drive-thru wait time by 15% and increase order throughput by 19%.
Time matters. Customers who wait under two minutes for an order are four times more likely to repeat purchase from the same retailer or restaurant, according to Rakuten Ready's 2020 Time Study.
Another possible fix: designated parking spots for customers waiting for large or complex orders, combined with a contactless carside delivery, a feature seen in McDonald's Experience of the Future stores.