At PJ’s Coffee, the New-Orleans based, direct trade coffee roaster, drive-thru purchases make up 65% of the company’s total sales. Last year PJ’s drive-thru locations averaged 53.4% more revenue than locations without a drive-thru, and they opened innovative concepts to maximize on the to-go trend accelerated by the pandemic, like drive-thru only locations and even one with a double-drive thru.
PJ's performance is inline with other brands; drive-thru visits have increased 36% since the early days of the pandemic with 9 out of 10 visiting in May 2021, according to the State of What Feeds Us report.
Drive-thrus, according to market research firm The NPD Group, are the key to the industry's future. Consumer demand for drive-thru has spurred brands to revisit their store development plans, adding drive-thrus and contactless pickup options to their new designs.
Ahead of National Drive-Thru Day on July 24, HT caught up with Ryan Stansbury, Vice President of Franchise Development at PJ’s Coffee, to talk about the difference drive-thrus make for QSRs like PJ’s.
HT: PJ’s has had drive-thrus for more than 20 years. What impact did drive-thrus have on PJ’s’ bottom line during 2020?
Ryan Stansbury, Vice President of Franchise Development at PJ’s Coffee: The impact was significant. In 2020, drive-thru locations achieved an average of 12.1% SSS increase over 2019 and in 2020, AUV for drive-thru locations was 53% higher compared to locations without a drive-thru.
HT: How will the drive-thrus evolve in the near future?
Stansbury: I believe there will be a greater emphasis on enhancing the drive-thru experience. Let’s face it- placing an order through the outdoor menu board and picking up an order through the window is not the most memorable experience. I believe we will see team members outside taking the orders in-person. I believe you will also see new audio and visual features to enhance the experience during the time you are in the drive-thru.
HT: What role does technology play in PJ's current drive-thru?
Stansbury: At the present, it's really just the communication headsets and the POS. More to come here as mentioned previously.
HT: Please tell us more about your double drive-thru location.
Stansbury: We will have locations with dual drive-thru menu boards but a single window to pick up from. The main reason for dual ordering stations is to manage the stack of vehicles and aid the throughput of customers.
HT: What about drive-thru only locations?
Stansbury: This is still a fairly new model for our brand. I believe it has a place in the market but as of right now, the majority of our locations feature both a dining room and drive-thru.
What can other brands do to make the most of this new “to go” trend?
Stansbury: Focus on the consumer experience. Drive-thrus provide a significant convenience to the consumer. Make sure the experience is not compromised.
HT: What type of technology does PJ’s plan to add this year, to the drive-thru and or other areas of the restaurant?
Stansbury: We are looking at a system that prints the recipe on a sticky receipt to aid the baristas through a more expedited beverage making process.
HT: What role does online/digital ordering play at PJ's? In the drive-thru?
Stansbury: We are seeing an increase in online and mobile app orders. We have over 30k downloads of our app and it was launched less than six months ago. Online and mobile ordering provides our customers with additional ways to get their order conveniently.
What tips does PJ’s have for line-busting and increasing speed of service in the drive-thru?
Stansbury: I believe this boils down to efficient and effective operational procedures. Furthermore, you need an adequate number of well-trained staff/team members.