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QSR Feature
Beyond Speed
Customers care about more than getting their food fast when they go through the drive thru.
Drive Thru customers want friendly, fast service and an accurate order.

Imagine this scenario: You’re a scout evaluating potential recruits for a football team, and you’re looking at two young players for a wide receiver position. Player A runs the 40-yard dash in just more than four seconds, but he also has a bad attitude, a poor memory for plays, and a habit of dropping passes. Player B is slower but is a great team player, runs the right pattern every time, and always catches the ball. Whom are you going to pick?

Of course you’re going to choose Player B. Speed, after all, isn’t everything—not on the football field, and not in the drive-thru lane. In fact, when it comes to the drive thru, speed means very little if other aspects of the experience don’t meet the customer’s expectations.

“I think speed doesn’t rank up there as high as everyone thinks it does with customers,” says drive-thru expert T.J. Schier, president of consulting firm Incentivize Solutions.

It doesn’t matter if consumers are through the line in less than one minute if they feel abused by the staff, end up with the wrong order, and are disappointed in the quality of their meal. So instead of focusing on shaving a few milliseconds off wait times, take some tips from these drive-thru experts on how to please your on-the-go guests in other ways.

Get it Right

It’s happened to everyone. You pull up to the speaker and order the double cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard, and pickles, hold the onions (you hate onions). When you get your food, tear off the wrapping, and take a bite—lo and behold—a mouthful of onions.

Is there anything more frustrating? For the quick-service customer, probably not. More than three-quarters of consumers say they want a drive thru to be more accurate than fast, according to this year’s Drive-Thru Consumer Survey.

“Order accuracy is paramount,” Schier says. “If you get it wrong, your complaint-o-meter is a lot higher, and the customer is not in the restaurant, so you can’t fix it.”

Most of the major chains today, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, use digital order-confirmation boards placed at the order points to ensure accuracy. These devices give customers a visual confirmation of what they just ordered, so the crew can correct mistakes before the order is filled.

Order accuracy is paramount. If you get it wrong, your complaint-o-meter is a lot higher.”

“Their order shows up on the screen along with the condiments, so the customer knows what they ordered,” says Denny Lynch, senior vice president of communications for Wendy’s. “That way they can look and say, ‘I want cheese, too, or I didn’t want ketchup.’ And if we miss-key it, they can catch it.”

Ken Neeld, president and CEO of digital-signage seller Delphi Display Systems, says order-confirmation boards can reduce complaints by about 20 or 30 percent. But at around $6,000 for the board plus installation, they can be costly.

Schier suggests repeating the order back to the customer twice, once at the speaker and again at the window when you hand them their bag.

Soured by past experiences, some customers have a habit of checking inside the bag before they leave the lot to ensure their order is correct. To provide extra assurance, Burger King’s packaging includes icons that can be checked off to show any changes to the standard build. McDonald’s recently began deploying proprietary printers that create special-request tickets that crew attach to items.

“When I get that McCafé, I can look at this printed receipt, and I know if it’s mine or another person’s in the car,” says Jim McCabe, vice president of operations for McDonald’s USA.

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