Top 5 drive-through questions for franchisors

What does it take to run a drive-through food business?

Inside Franchise Business asked some key players for their tips. We asked five key questions; see what Gloria Jean’s Coffees GM Damien Zivkovich, Guzman Y Gomez GM Mark Hawthorne, Muzz Buzz executive chairman Warren Reynolds, Zarraffa’s founder Kenton Campbell and Red Rooster CEO Chris Green have to say…

1. What are the challenges?

Guzman Y Gomez: Real-estate and development costs are higher for drive-through restaurants because of the fit-out and safety requirements. Your business model must be strong enough to accommodate extra development and real-estate costs. Your operating platform also needs to run efficiently during peak times and keep traffic moving.

Our dual-linear kitchen design and technology platforms have enabled us to serve fresh food at pace. With drive-through, we can process orders for up to 80 cars in an hour. Drive-through involves different processes and an extra delivery channel within the restaurant. 

Muzz Buzz: This service sector involves a great deal of planning regarding traffic management and speed, as well as significant training and high-quality equipment. Muzz Buzz has developed technology that allows us to service customers and produce products in less than one minute.

Zarraffa’s: As with any convenience business, speed of service is paramount. A high level of training and a reliance on the developed operational systems are critical.

Gloria Jean’s Coffees: It is always key to ensure that the right selection criteria is used to secure the perfect site.

2. How much is technology a driver of the business?

Red Rooster: There have been massive developments in drive-through technology including menu boards, speaker and headset systems, cameras and timing, and POS and payment systems.

GYG: Technology is a key strategic focus of our model, from the order point and headsets our crews wear to the Summit system that measures service times and the flow of cars through the outlet. We are always exploring new ways to leverage technology to enhance customer experience and improve efficiency.

In future, GYG will leverage the existing app and our partnership with Google Zoo to develop our very own virtual drive-through platform.

The virtual drive-through will eventually combine location awareness, sensor beacons, artificial intelligence and voice ordering so customers will be able to do all their ordering through their phone and not even need a drive-through lane.

MB: Technology is vital in terms of the equipment we use, the fact we use advanced coffee machines and ovens that work at high speed. Our POS technology and apps our consumers can download to interact with our business are very important. Technology will continue to be a major factor in the development of our business.

Z: Technology is an integral part of making a drive-through run efficiently. At Zarraffa’s, we have state-of-the-art speaker systems, headsets, computer and POS systems that are all fully integrated.

3. How important is driveway layout?

RR: Drive-through layouts are supercritical. The vital points are visibility of the entrance, distance from entrance to speaker, distance from speaker to pick-up and, of course, the angles of any turns. Higher-volume locations may need an extra order point and cash window. It is also important to have a waiting bay for customers with larger orders so as not to slow down the lane for everybody else. The biggest tip is, seconds saved equals dollars made – drive-through is all about speed.

MB: We take total control of driveway layouts and planning as this is a very specific area of expertise. It has to be done in a safe and efficient way for both cars and pedestrians.

Z: We consider each drive way layout an imperative part of our operational speed of service that plays a key role in a better convenience offering to our customers. Without a well-executed layout, car queuing can present problems and increase the chance that a customer may decide to keep driving deeming a queue to be ‘too long’ to wait.

4. How many ordering stations do you need?

RR: Our drive-through restaurants typically have four: two for drive through and two for front counter. In busier restaurants we sometimes have a cash window, which means we need an extra register. Tablets can also be used for more flexibility.

GYG: Technically speaking, you need only one ordering station to run a drive-through, but having two significantly adds to your capacity to serve more cars in an hour and reduce the bottleneck during peak service times. Eventually, ordering stations will become less important as smartphones and devices becomes the point of order. As we continue to invest in digital, more orders will be made through the app, leveraging technologies like virtual drive-through.

MB: Ordering and servicing is done at the same window, ensuring interaction between the service provider and the consumer. Our drive-through stores have a service point on both sides of our building.  

GJC: Ordering stations vary from site to site and depend on how much space is available in a particular layout. However, the main idea is to ensure there is one order point and one pick-up point at each site.

5. What technology are you using for customer orders?

RR: We are installing a speaker box with digital headsets and customer order display. We also put in the Summit timing system that times every car and benchmarks speed live across the network. In the future, we will be looking to use our delivery app and online ordering site for pick up in the drive-through.

GYG: With more and more of all our orders coming through the phone, we are focussed on continually developing our app to make our customer experience even better. Our platforms give our restaurants the capability to process 450 transactions an hour (this has been known to reach 800 an hour on Free Burrito Day).

MB: Muzz Buzz has an app that allows efficient service at the store. We don’t encourage people to use phones while driving, or to text orders. In fact, we do not take orders in this manner.

We believe that safety on the road is a key factor so we will not introduce technology that encourages people to risk their lives, nor those of their passengers and other commuters.