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2019 QSR Drive-Thru Trends

CEO of Summit Innovations, Andre Pravaz recently shared his insights regarding major trends facing QSRs and drive-thrus in 2019.

Read our Q&A to find out why technology is playing a bigger role than ever before!

What are some of the challenges that operators are trying to solve relative to drive-thrus?

Speed of service, order accuracy and consistency are three major challenges facing operators at the drive-thru.

When visiting the drive-thru, customers expect a quick and seamless service experience. All too often, particularly during peak operating hours, QSRs experience large waiting times at the drive-thru. This is due to bottlenecks at service points. Most of the time, this occurs at the pick-up window, where a delay can have a considerable flow-on effect to cars queuing.

Every second saved at the drive-thru is worth 1-2 extra transactions per day and creates happy customers. In contrast, every second lost can result in a poor customer experience and erode profits.

Order accuracy can be thwarted by poor headset and speaker quality at the drive-thru. This can result in frustration for both the customer and crew member. Asking a customer to repeat an order over and over again, or worse, mishearing an order and giving the wrong product to a customer, can not only hold up the drive-thru but leave the customer with a negative experience.

Providing a positive service experience that is consistent time and time again is difficult for even the tightest drive-thru operations. Return customers grow to expect a particular standard from a QSR. Even a handful of instances in which service speed is below average can result in a dissatisfied customer.

What are some of the biggest trends in drive-thrus that you expect to see in 2019?

Drive-thru design will always play the most important role in setting yourself up for operational success, but technology will continue to pave the way on how our customers would like to order and receive food. That’s what is exciting about the future of drive-thrus moving forward.

New cars with built-in interfaces to order and predictive suggestions will make ordering from your car easier. Even virtual order takers greeting you on the COD and displaying predictive menu images and offerings based on your preferences.

Segregation of lanes to suit order pull-ups, mobile pick-ups and curbside pick-ups will be discussed more and more often in the development stage of a new site to accommodate the increasing demands on how our customers are now ordering.

Customer-enabled touch screen ordering with payment options at an order point could potentially remove the need for cash windows and cash operators.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the past 2-3 years?

The rise of food delivery services and instant ordering apps such as UberEATS have forced QSRs to consider ways for these apps to co-exist with drive-thrus and complement one another.

The percentage of customers who are mobile ordering through an application as opposed to ordering on site is increasing.

For example, some brands now have apps where customers can put their order in before even reaching the drive-thru. Stores receive a notification via a customer’s device that the customer has arrived in the car park or is about to enter the drive-thru. Users can simply visit a designated drive-thru lane to pick up their mobile order, making it more convenient and tech-friendly for the younger generations. This is a game changer.

What are you hearing from operators that they most need in their drive-thru lanes, windows, menu boards, or POS systems?

From a design point of view, it is about utilizing all of the real estate available to lengthen distances between service points. The further away an order point, the more time crew members have to prepare a meal prior to the approach at pick-up. If a customer has to stop for long periods they have already begun to think that the service is slow.

Customer Order Displays (COD) at the order point help set the customer’s mind at ease. They can see what they have ordered and make changes at the order point through the aid promotional images. If a customer trusts that you heard their order correctly, it prevents order checking at the pick-up window and improves service speed.

Remote reporting solutions have also become an important way for owner-operators to keep track of their store’s drive-thru performance in real time. Our cloud-based reporting platform, Summit Panorama, pulls every piece of information from the drive-thru and displays real-time reports and dashboards that are accessible on any device, anywhere, anytime.

This enables you to track important events and milestones, such as if your store has broken a car count record in one hour over lunch peak. It sends you alerts on any issues which may be affecting your store’s operations in real time, such as if your store has had more than five cars exceed five minutes total service time in a one-hour period. Of course, the parameters are customizable and set by the user to have relevance for their business.

No matter where you are in the world, you can stay on top of an issue before it becomes a real problem for your bottom line.

What are the trends you’re seeing for drive-thru solutions that connect to the internet or to the cloud?

Retrieving drive-thru data and viewing via dashboards and alerts in real time has become cloud-based. You can retrieve your results anywhere, anytime and on any device giving the end user the opportunity to eliminate bottlenecks as they occur – not waiting until the next day when it is too late.

What are some new or improved drive-thru solutions that operators are excited about?

Remote reporting solutions are essential for keeping track of drive-thru operations and staying on top of issues in real time.

Summit Innovations’ cloud-based enterprise reporting solution, Summit Panorama, delivers drive-thru reporting (including above restaurant data aggregation) and automated actionable insights not previously possible.

Historically, drive-thru timer reporting has been based on “islands of information” where data could be produced per restaurant, but not aggregated. Summit Panorama uses data warehousing and business intelligence technologies to capture live data from each timer and then present this via:

  • Dashboard reporting
  • Ad-hoc queries
  • Automatically generated and emailed reports
  • ‘Actionable Alerts’ sent as push notifications allowing for immediate intervention when defined KPIs are either met or not met


Even when overseas or intestate, operators can be on top of their drive-thru operations at the touch of a button.

Real time stats can be viewed from laptops, tablets, smartphones and even smart watches making it easier than ever to keep informed.

What technologies are improving the experience of customers and staff relative to drive-thrus?

Integration to other technological platforms has become increasingly important. Whether a customer is mobile ordering or viewing an order on a screen, the technologies must be able to communicate with each other.

This also includes the ability to be able receive alerts in any of your stores remotely to further analyze and improve service bottlenecks as they are happening.

What are some of the most common misconceptions about drive-thru solutions – perhaps products that are more or less useful than expected?

Visibility and analytics of cars in the drive-thru is what promotes better performance and reducing service times increases sales through greater guest satisfaction.

Final thoughts…

Speed of service and accuracy are the key to any drive-thru’s long-term success.

Studies have shown that customer engagement at service points is critical to success, as this will determine how a customer feels about your business as they drive away at the end of the journey. A poor experience at the drive-thru could mean a loss of return loyalty.

This is why it is crucial to step back and analyse what your current operation is doing versus what it can do. The last experience is the first remembered!