The Current State of Drive-Thru Operations
Before the pandemic, drive-thru restaurants were considered a powerful revenue driver and a worthwhile investment by fast-food restaurant chains. However, there was one issue that needed to be addressed - the wait times.
When the pandemic hit, the drive-thru industry saw a significant growth spurt, as more customers opted for contactless service and the comfort of their favorite fast food during a stressful time. As a result, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for drive-thru restaurants was around 7% between 2019 and 2021.
At the beginning of the pandemic, customers were more willing to tolerate longer wait times. However, as the months went on, customers grew increasingly impatient, with 85% of consumers willing to consider or outright leave if they perceived a long line, which was defined as anything over 6 minutes.
The events of 2020 reprioritized drive-thru efficiency with speed of service as the single most important goal to better meet customer expectations and avoid loss of revenue.
What is Video Intelligence and How Does it Help Improve Speed of Service?
In 2020, a study by QSR Magazine found that customers prioritize speed, accuracy, and friendly service when rating their drive-thru experience. Improving these factors can significantly impact customer satisfaction, drive repeat business and impact sales.
As of 2021, nearly 30% of drive-thru restaurants in the U.S. have incorporated digital menu boards, order confirmation systems, contactless systems, or mobile ordering technology to enhance the customer experience and make their operations more efficient.
But now, many businesses are taking a step forward to advance their drive-thru experience in order to be more efficient and improve speed of service. They are now focused on leveraging the data generated through these tech solutions and translating them into actionable insights through video intelligence.
How is video intelligence different from your generic security camera footage?
Video intelligence transforms raw video footage, like security camera footage, into usable data and actionable insights. It allows video footage to be used dynamically, enabling individuals at businesses to make decisions based on video data instead of relying on hearsay.
So how can video intelligence help boost revenue by improving your speed of service?
Imagine if your Drive-Thru sees an unexpected rush with a slew of cars lining up. There is just one staff member to take their order, prepare it and hand it over. While he/she is trying their best, cars keep adding up, the order time per car is increasing and customers are now waiting in line for over 8 minutes.
Customers are starting to get impatient. Some decide to drive away while the new ones approaching turn around after seeing the long line. After all, they did choose a drive-thru for speedy service and a quick stop.
You have now failed customer expectations and even lost potential revenue to rivals.
What if your security cameras could be leveraged to help you make better decisions such as:
Empowering staff members with crucial, real-time insights that help them confidently make impactful decisions like these at the right time is exactly what video intelligence does. Collectively, these insights enable drive-thrus to find efficiency gaps, take corrective measures and gravely impact their speed of service and eventually, revenue.
The Role of Video Intelligence in Enhancing Speed of Service at Drive Thrus
Now that we have established how speed of service can directly impact revenue, it is safe to say that speed of service is the single most important thing for a drive-thru. It helps you track the average time taken - right from the time your customer enters the drive thru to the time they receive the order. Therefore, a customer’s journey at a drive-thru can be broken down into multiple parts which involve multiple metrics. Monitoring and keeping a check on all of these metrics is what can ultimately help improve your speed of service significantly.
1. Average Vehicle Wait-Time
More often than not, drive-thru staff gets caught up in the rush of punching orders and delivering them. They don’t have the time to actively check how long vehicles have been waiting in line and understand how long is too long.
Video intelligence calculates the average wait time for each vehicle from the moment it enters the drive lane to the moment it exits. This metric helps measure drive-thru efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Here’s how Wobot helps you with timely decisions that you can take to reduce your vehicle wait time:
2. Vehicle Throughput
60% of Chick-fil-A’s drive-thrus have employees taking orders outside the queue. This was optimized using video technology and handheld tablets to take orders.
With cars lining up during peak hours, drive thrus often find it difficult to assess vehicle count against serviceability. While they don’t want to lose ground by giving up any potential drive-thru sales, they also don’t want to overwhelm their systems and risk losing customers.
With video intelligence in place, you can track the number of vehicles passing through your drive-thru lane per hour. This metric helps evaluate the effectiveness of the drive-thru process and identify potential bottlenecks.
3. Peak Times
How many employees will you need on a Thursday afternoon? Or, when should the on-ground staff dive into ‘all hands on deck’ mode? While it is expensive to have surplus staff on the schedule, it’s also hard to identify the right number of staff members needed each day.
Video intelligence can identify periods and trends with the highest customer traffic and wait times. These insights can help allocate resources more effectively during peak hours, optimize staffing levels and even reduce labour costs.
Here’s how Wobot helps you with timely decisions that you can take to manage your staff effectively and smartly:
4. Order Duration
Menu cuts have helped Taco Bell’s margins and created efficiencies in drive-thru speeds. It was able to complete orders at a quicker pace, 17 seconds faster than 2020.
The longer the duration per order, the longer the vehicle queue length. Whether you are a stand alone drive-thru or a chain, order duration can be a make or break metric as it can be a direct indication of your speed of service and efficiency.
Video intelligence measures the time taken for each vehicle to complete the order and payment process. This metric can help identify inefficiencies in the order and payment process.
Here’s how Wobot helps you with timely decisions that you can take to reduce the duration per order:
5. Staff Movement
A well-designed ergonomic kitchen can increase productivity by up to 5% and reduce errors by up to 60%, according to a study by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.
How your back of house is set up can also play a role in the time taken to fulfil your order and the order accuracy.
A commercial kitchen is already a war-zone, especially during peak hours. Imagine your staff constantly bumping into each other, losing precious seconds going from equipment to equipment placed at two different ends, and as a result, messing up orders and disappointing customers.
An ergonomically designed kitchen saves time by minimizing movement between the kitchen staff, including their interaction with appliances and each other. It helps arrange equipment and workstations in a sequential manner, ensures there is enough storage and countertop space to accommodate the volume of orders, curtails injuries and increases overall productivity.
Heatmaps produced by video intelligence can show bottlenecks in kitchen operations. This helps in identifying areas of friction, layout and equipment inefficiencies and unnecessary staff movement, resulting in a more optimized workflow and improved ergonomics.
Here’s how Wobot helps you with timely decisions that you can take to improve your kitchen ergonomics:
Wondering how much revenue you can increase by using video intelligence at your drive-thru? Know Your Savings
Check out Wobot.ai’s ROI calculator now!
Why NOW is the time to adopt video intelligence?
Most drive-thru chains today still depend on security footage and loop detection systems to help them understand where they stand on the efficiency scale. While loop detectors are accurate with vehicle-count, they require hardware installment, which involves more set-up time and cost.
More importantly, the data provided by loop detectors is not very detail-oriented (Example: It cannot directly measure the speed of an object) and is often prone to errors, sounding off false alarms. Moreover, monitoring multiple lanes or vehicles is often a challenge with loop-based systems, thus proving to be an inefficient means to track metrics that directly impact speed of service.
Video intelligence on the other hand is simply a layer over your existing camera infrastructure (which means no additional hardware required). It provides flexibility to your teams by integrating with your existing systems seamlessly, detects multiple objects at the same time and allows you to directly review any movement and action in real-time on your screen. Let’s look at some more advantages of video intelligence:
Higher accuracy & superior contextualization of events, objects, etc.
- Better security with real time alerts on breaches or threats
- Easily scalable for larger organizations
- Hassle-free accessibility through mobile and web-based interface
- Actionable insights into customer behaviour and preferences
Overall, video intelligence is a more advanced and versatile solution than loop-based systems. It is relatively easier, cheaper and faster to install and provides you with intelligent insights that can help you realise your true revenue potential.