As a professional in the drive-thru business, you understand the frustration of watching a line of cars grow longer and longer. Your customers are hungry, impatient, and time is ticking away. Every long line of cars presents a dual challenge and opportunity.
According to QSR Magazine, for every additional seven seconds a customer waits, satisfaction decreases by 1%, directly impacting your revenue. In 2019, the average wait time was 255 seconds, swelling to 356.8 seconds in 2020. Although there were improvements in 2021, one in five customers still experienced slower-than-expected orders.
When it comes to drive-thru businesses the average wait time is not just a number. It's a vital performance metric with significant implications on your sales.
The Consequences of Extended Wait Times in Drive-Thrus
Extended wait times in drive-thrus lead to customer frustration, resulting in decreased revenue and diminished loyalty. According to a SeeLevel HX study, 76% of customers will likely become frustrated or consider leaving the drive-thru if they observe long lines surpassing the average wait time. However, many businesses still rely on outdated technologies that fail to provide the necessary real-time insights to optimize operations.
Utilizing AI technology in drive-thrus can potentially reduce wait times by 50%, according to an MIT study. Similarly, Panasonic's experiment showed AI integration could reduce average wait times by about 23 seconds and increase order accuracy to 98%.
What is Wobot and How Can It Help Improve Drive-Thru Efficiency?
Wobot, an AI-driven video intelligence solution, is designed to transform drive-thru operations. Providing real-time visibility of operations and data-driven insights, Wobot enables businesses to monitor wait times, identify bottlenecks, and make informed decisions to enhance efficiency and productivity.
An example of the level of insight that you can receive from its user-friendly dashboard is the current car wait-time at each station, which can also be compared with average wait-time (in the previous hour).
Reducing Average Vehicle Wait Time With Wobot’s Real-Time Insights
In 2019, McDonald's tested a program called "Drive-Thru Fast Forward" that focused on utilizing digital signage and AI-powered cameras to increase the speed of their drive-thrus by reducing the total wait time. It reduced each car's wait time by 15 to 20 seconds.
With Wobot, drive-thrus can now do the same and then some more. Let’s look at how Wobot empowers your drive-thru staff to make the right decision at the right time to reduce average wait time:
1. Understand when to walk up to the lane to fasten order taking
The most common drive-thru setups have a single order board, which can become the slowest point in the process, especially during rush hours. Typical order times range from 45 to 75 seconds, which, if no delays develop downstream, could turn into 48 to 80 cars per hour.
Wobot’s intuitive and user-friendly dashboard gives you real-time insights on the average wait time of the car, per station and for the drive-thru overall. For example, through its automated alerts and color coded screens, it generates notifications about how you are behind your average wait time goal.
This can enable your staff to walk up the drive-thru lane, where customers can place their orders and complete their transactions while waiting in the queue behind 2-3 vehicles. This way, your drive-thru begins engaging with the customer much sooner than usual.
These details are then transferred to the Kitchen Display System, allowing the order preparation to start in advance, reducing the total journey time and eliminating any chances of frustration caused by long wait times.
2. Know when to split the order-taking and cashier process and open up dedicated windows during peak hours
During peak hours, dividing the rush of customers between two dedicated windows, one for order-taking and another for payment or serving beverages alone, helps overwhelmed drive-thru staff effectively manage numerous orders, reducing customer wait times.
Wobot helps you with accurate insights and data so you can divide tasks strategically, on time. The order-taking employee can solely focus on accuracy and completeness, separate from payment and customer interaction.
An example of this would be multi-camera visibility through a single dashboard that shows you the total car count in real time and helps you understand when it’s time to divide the workload. Using this data, the drive-thru can also efficiently utilize multiple lanes during busy periods by separating windows that perform the same task, such as Pre-Menu or Stack/Menu/Order/Cash windows.
This facilitates smoother traffic flow, preventing backups and expediting the ordering and payment process.
3. Determine the peak hours to avoid an understaffed situation
Not being able to analyze the peak hours of your drive-thru can result in employing inadequate staff that is unable to handle the rush. This could further lead to long queues of angry and frustrated customers waiting to drop a negative review of your place, which can have a multiplier effect on your revenue loss.
Wobot analyzes your drive-thru security cameras, helps you identify peak and lean business hours, enabling demand-based staff scheduling for efficient operations.
This information can then be used to deploy your key staff members to all the crucial corners of the drive-thru, ensuring that they're in the right positions to handle the rush of orders. The result is reduction in wait time as staff members are focused on specific roles leading to more efficiency and all hands are on deck. The drive-thru is able to maximize on the rush, close in more orders, impacting sales.
4. Temporarily shut down online orders
As the queue of your drive-thru grows, more customers reach their high point of frustration. Your employees are already trying to ease the raging war in the kitchen, and in this scenario, watching the online orders rise can only make the situation worse.
Wobot’s operational dashboard highlights such outlier events that get triggered when performance misses wait-time targets, making it easy to identify where the bottleneck has occurred.
In this case, temporarily shutting online orders can ease the workload of staff members. Since the drive-thru is working to close or prepare only orders given on-site, the wait time of customers and the service time is reduced. This enables drive-thrus to close more on-site orders in a specific time, increase vehicle throughput, and improve customer experience.
Wobot's AI-Driven Insights: Redefining Drive-Thru Efficiency by Reducing Average Wait Time
Through Wobot's insights, you can strategically customize your approach to order-taking, open dedicated windows during peak hours, optimize staff positioning, and even temporarily shut down online orders. These actions, backed by data-driven insights, can significantly reduce average wait times and enhance the efficiency of your drive-thru.
By deploying Wobot's AI-driven video intelligence solution, you can not only reduce average wait times but also improve customer satisfaction and drive greater profitability for your drive-thru business.