Top 5 Challenges that Drive-thrus Face

Drive-thrus, also known as drive-throughs, have been with us for long, from as early as the 1970s. Since then, their owners have worked hard to make them fast and efficient while trying their best to give the customers a good experience.

They have been consistently going through innovations to enhance employees’ productivity and customers’ experience. Then the pandemic struck. Its orders surged as people became wary of entering restaurants. According to a study by the NPD group, by December 2020, drive-thru lanes accounted for 44% of off-premise orders. However, with this increase in demand came many challenges. The added responsibility of keeping up with the orders on time became all the more prominent.

In this blog, we will dive deeper into the challenges drive-thrus face due to the increase in orders and how they can tackle it.

Top Challenges faced by Drive-thrus

    1. Longer Wait-times

      Last March, when Covid took over, restaurant sales fell sharply as in-person dining got banned. However, after several weeks, a new trend emerged. There were long lines wrapped around fast-food locations’ entire perimeter. In addition, more and more restaurants began converting their dine-in facilities to drive-throughs by taking advantage of their parking spaces. As a result, higher volume and larger orders slowed down average wait times by nearly 30 seconds in 2020, according to SeeLevel HX’s 2020 study. While the average total time in 2019 was 327 seconds, it increased to 356.8 seconds in 2020, which leads to an approximate $32,091.33 potential loss per year per store unit. While longer lines may seem good for sales, it can result in losses if the drive-thrus are not optimized for increasing demand.

    2. Inaccurate Orders

      Inaccurate orders can tarnish how your customers feel about your food service establishment. Even if the wait time is less and the customers receive their orders immediately, a wrong order can directly result in a bad customer experience. To rectify this, the customers would have to wait in the lines again to get the correct order, which is a big hassle. Therefore, most of the customers go back deeply dissatisfied with an incorrect order.

      Customer picking up a drive-thru order

      According to the 2020 SeeLevel HX study, as quick-service chains become more reliant on drive-throughs, it is all the more critical for fast-food brands to improve accuracy to stay competitive. While the service time of accurate orders is 231.9 seconds, it is 281.0 seconds for inaccurate orders, which is approximately 13% of the total orders. As much as this is a customer service issue, it is equally bad for the restaurants as wrong or missing orders will slow down their speed of service as they look to correct the mistakes.

    3. Hygiene and Safety in Drive-thrus

      Customers are becoming more and more aware of their surroundings. As a result, they now prefer to interact in a place where they can see that hygiene and cleanliness are priorities. These include certain covid-19 specific guidelines such as social distancing, facemasks, and general protection like gloves, hairnets, etc.

      Woman in facemask working at a drive-thru

      According to QSR magazine, there are four aspects of keeping a foodservice establishment clean and sanitary, these include:

      • Handwashing
      • Cleaning surfaces
      • Sanitizing food contact surfaces
      • Disinfecting touch-points

      However, keeping at par with these guidelines is challenging. There is a lack of a set mechanism to check if all hygiene, cleanliness, and safety processes are in place and if employees are following them continuously.

    4. Identifying Returning Customers

      Fast-food chains do not have set ways of recognizing returning customers. This leads to a lack of personalization as customers need to convey their personal information, preferred orders, payment, and billing details again and again. Due to this, order time increases as employees can’t identify repeat customers. In addition, it also takes away the chances of personalizing digital menus, upselling, and speeding up sales for the restaurants.

    5. Lack of data-driven Insights

      Solving all these issues drive-thrus face daily isn’t a simple thing. It is not about adding more employees or increasing shift timings. Instead, it is about understanding the root cause of the issues with the help of data and working on these data-driven insights to better the operations.

      If data is the solution, then why is it difficult for them to work on these issues?

        • They lack data that will help them make an objective decision that will bring good results.
        • Lack of real-time data works against them in making critical decisions at the right time.
        • This lack of real-time data cannot produce actionable insights to help managers and operators take immediate corrective actions.

What Drive-thrus need to Improve?

As the demand for drive-thrus grows, so does the competition. For them to thrive amongst such competition, technology, such as video analytics, is essential to reduce costs, gather actionable insights, and take immediate decisions. Video analytics helps QSRs in increasing operational efficiency, increase sales, thereby driving more revenue. is a video analytics platform that helps drive-thrus stand out from the competition. Our AI-powered checklists help QSRs increase efficiency and decrease operational costs. With, businesses can gain continuous feedback on processes, focus on areas of improvement, and drive operational excellence.

Drive-throughs that deploy in their premises can reduce wait-time, manage queues efficiently, improve guest experience, and use data to make critical business decisions.

Discover how you can incorporate for your foodservice establishment

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