Jason Tober
Blog, Operational Efficiency

We’ve all been there. You stop for food at a QSR drive-thru and your service is slow (I thought this was fast food?), your order isn’t correct, the employee is short with you and sounds irritated, or the place looks like a dump (Ew, do I even want to eat here?). You don’t tolerate it as a customer, and you shouldn’t tolerate it as a franchisee.

So, what are the top QSR drive-thru issues and how can you overcome them? Here’s our take on the matter.

#1 – The service is slow

The issue: No one likes waiting, especially at a QSR. After all, most of your drive-thru customers are looking to save time by staying in their car, not receive slower service than if they parked and walked in. We understand it’s sometimes unavoidable to keep customers waiting for their food, but avoiding preventable slowdowns can keep those problems to a minimum.

The solution:

  1. Write a great schedule, including an accurate forecast of demand.
  2. Make sure the drive-thru station always has items it needs.
  3. Keep food prep going and make sure that as soon as a product gets low, more is being made.
  4. The drive-thru starter and finisher stations should always be occupied. If an employee needs to step away, make sure somebody else (the manager if necessary) is ready to take over.
  5. Always have an order taker and a cashier during peak times, as one person can easily become overwhelmed. And make sure that the right people are in the right place at the right time (aka “Aces in their Places”.)
  6. Keep cashiers trained. Make sure new people are fully trained before going on duty and are not put on peak shifts right away. Give refreshers regularly.

Watch our 4-minute video on the secret to improving your restaurant's speed of service

#2 – My order is wrong

The issue: There are several reasons why a drive-thru customer’s order may be wrong. The employee may have heard them incorrectly, they may have entered the wrong meal by accident, the ticket got confused with another, the person delivering the food handed them the wrong bag, etc. Of course, mistakes happen. But when an order is wrong in the drive-thru, your customer may not notice until they get home.

The solution:

  1. Always have the order taker verify the order with the customer. The easiest way is generally to repeat it back to them. Don’t ring the order in until it has been verified.
  2. Have somebody else listen to the order to reduce the risk of the order taker mishearing, especially for locations near airports (where there are more likely to be people with odd accents).
  3. Pour drinks immediately and hand them out when the cashier collects the money, as drinks are the most commonly forgotten item.
  4. Repeat the order again when the food is handed to the guest.
  5. Make sure that the drive-thru station always has the needed items such as straws, condiments, napkins, etc. Restock immediately when an item gets low.

#3 – The employee was not friendly

The issue: Your customers may only be in your drive-thru for a couple of minutes, meaning that is all the time you have to give them a positive impression of your brand. If your employee is having a bad day, that may impact the way they address your customers, resulting in a negative customer experience. And you don’t want that!

The solution:

  1. Model good behavior yourself. A grumpy manager will lead to grumpy workers.
  2. Roleplay guest scenarios when bringing on a new employee and occasionally during slumps.
  3. Make sure the speaker volume is correct and that the order taker’s voice is not being made to sound robotic or dull.
  4. Encourage employees to greet regulars by name.
  5. Talk to employees before their shift to make sure they are in a good frame of mind. If somebody is particularly grumpy, consider rotating them into the back of the kitchen or to another position where they don’t have to deal with as many guests.

#4 – This drive-thru is dirty

The issue: It is easy to pay a lot of attention to cleanliness inside the building, and less to cleanliness outside. But be aware that drive-thru areas can easily become “trashy” and unpleasant, especially as they are exposed to weather, blown leaves, etc. You never want your customers to question choosing your establishment for their next meal because it appeared too dirty.

The solution:

  1. Make sure that the drive-thru area is on the maintenance/cleaning schedule, so it is not overlooked.
  2. Personally inspect the area during the day.
  3. Wipe off the drive-thru window, which can easily become smudgy any time dirt is visible.
  4. Check that the posted menu is accurate, current, and readable.
  5. Drive through yourself and check the sight lines looking inside the restaurant, making sure clutter is kept where the customers can’t see it.

Your drive-thru station is a valuable part of your QSR. It is often the first impression a customer has of your brand, and it’s key to ensuring that they return again and again. Drive-thru excellence can help ensure your reviews and reputation remain positive.

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