5 ways to improve your quick-service restaurant’s speed of service in 2024


Speed of service (SoS) may be one of the most important metrics your QSR restaurants track—Its influence on other facets of your business is undeniable.

Speed of Service impacts your customer satisfaction rate (or VOC, Voice of Consumer scores), is impacted by your labor retention rate and can deter guests from returning. In many cases, you might even see cars abandoning your drive-thru when speeds are slow.

Before we dive into 5 ways to improve your SoS, let’s define speed of service and establish a baseline for comparison:

What is SoS (Speed of Service)?

Speed of Service is the measurement of the time that it takes for a restaurant to serve its customers. Most often measured by fast food—or QSR (Quick Service Restaurant)—restaurants with drive-thrus to measure the time it takes from ordering to receiving their food.

What is the industry average speed of service?

A recent Drive-Thru report by QSR Magazine shared their findings by brand, and the results did not disappoint. The fastest of the bunch was Taco Bell, at 3 minutes and 69 seconds, and the slowest (but the restaurant with the highest volume of cars in line on average), Chick-fil-A, clocked in at 5 minutes and 42 seconds.

The average speed of service across brands for Delaget clients was 3 minutes and 43 seconds in 2021 (Op Index), and the top 10% of operators clocked in at a lightning-fast 2 minutes and 47 seconds.

So, let’s dive into the top 5 ways to improve your quick-service restaurant’s speed of service:  


1. Generate accurate sales forecasts

Forecasting accurately is the number one key driver to ensuring your locations are staffed properly for busy spikes throughout the week and days.

Some of the tools you’ll need to build an accurate forecast are:

  • Your previous year’s sales, which are especially important during seasonal changes and holidays
  • Your current sales trend or average, which is typically built into your schedule-building software, but not always
  • Your Brand Marketing Calendar
  • A calendar of local events
  • The weather forecast
  • Employee feedback

Pro tip: Whatever your company’s sales forecasting process entails, ensure you’re re-evaluating forecasting metrics periodically and re-visiting them frequently. Inflation, performance, turnover, and other variants can affect your performance and should be taken into consideration when forecasting to ensure accuracy.


2. Train, train, and train again on POS (Point of Sales)

Train for speed and accuracy on the POS and remember: There’s no such thing as “too much training”.

Instruct your shift managers and RGMs to utilize your POS system’s Training Mode whenever there is downtime. Have employees roleplay scenarios with one another, including:

  • Placing an order in and then changing it or asking to remove it
  • Complex orders with 2-3 modifications
  • Typical menu items alongside LTOs
  • Large-volume orders of 10+ items or meals

This may seem silly to trainees and employees, roleplaying at their job during downtime, but rest assured, ongoing practice using the point of sales system will prepare even the newest and least experienced team members for a busy wave and help you reduce that speed of service time.


3. Double-check order accuracy

Have you ever heard to “measure twice, cut once”? How about, “Check the order twice, hand it to the customer once?”. No, it doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it, but it is certainly the key to order accuracy, which is a key component of your speed of service.

Train your team to check the order TWICE before handing it to the customer on the other side of the window.

A great tip to make this really stick is to print out a sign to display near the prep station or wherever your drive-thru orders are being packed.

This is a good reminder to check the order for accuracy because someone entering the queue again to get a missed item, coming into the store to complain about their missing item, or calling to get a refund is going to take up much more of your team’s time than spending <5 seconds to confirm the contents of every bag.


4. Get visual: Make clear what items have been 86’d

Two words: Supply chain. Restaurant operators are more than familiar with the American supply chain and the shortage of ingredients, paper products, and miscellaneous menu items.

It’s very likely that your restaurants, or at least some of your restaurants, experience shortages and must remove items from the menu from time to time. One way you can improve your speed of service is to make it clear which items are unavailable by putting a sticker, a note, or a magnet atop the menu item on the drive-thru menu.

This cuts the time of your cashier having to respond to an order with, “I’m sorry, we’re out of [insert missing item] today,” and allows customers to have an accurate idea of what is available for them to order—It’s a win-win that helps your staff and your customers.


5. Know your system metrics like the back of your hand

Knowing your restaurant metrics is crucial to keeping your business afloat, and especially crucial if you’re looking to expand and grow your unit count.

Keeping your system metrics handy with an operational data dashboard is the best way to see how performance in one area (like SoS) is impacting performance in another (like VOC).

Having POS, BOH, labor, VOC, and SOS metrics available in one place allows you to easily compare metrics and get a clear picture of your areas of improvement. Additionally, you can compare WTD, PTD, QTD, and YTD metrics to your daily metrics to see how today’s team is stacking up to your restaurant’s averages.

If you’re spending hours each day swimming in spreadsheets to get to these metrics, you’re wasting time that could be spent dialing in on areas of improvement, training teams on processes that drive revenue, or lending a hand where needed. Instead, consider a data dashboard that gives you everything you need in seconds. Delaget Coach will give you the boost you need to run faster, grow faster, and tighten up that speed of service score.

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