Are drive-thru-only locations a must-have? Here’s what we think

QSRs should offer a seamless customer experience, whether it’s in the dining area, at the drive-thru, or on the mobile app.

Drive-thrus have always been an important segment for quick service restaurants (QSRs) but it was only in the past year that we’ve truly seen the magnitude of its value for business. Drive-thrus, in fact, accounted for over 90% of QSRs’ sales in 2020 — a lifeline during the pandemic.

QSR operators and industry experts do not see this trend waning in the near future. In a recent report¹, Deloitte revealed that QSR brands are mulling over significantly expanding or improving their drive-thru operations. “Anecdotally, even places that had only 20% drive-thru business before the pandemic are finding it has shot up as high as 90%,” adds Deloitte.

It’s safe to say then that drive-thrus, whether as stand-alone or as part of other store formats, will remain extremely profitable for the foreseeable future. QSRs only need to be truly quick, not just in serving meals, but in pivoting their strategies, predicting trends, and improving their store concepts and digital offerings.

Luke Irving, founder and CEO of Fingermark™, said that data is key to identifying how a QSR can maximise profitability in the age of COVID. He added that while store formats are important, it is how QSRs utilise technology and improve customer experience that matter most.

“Drive-thru only locations are great, but they only work well if wait times are short and customers get the right orders. These can be addressed using cutting-edge digital tools. Al fresco dining is also seeing a comeback, and again, technology will be the key to ensuring that the customer journey doesn’t compromise safety and provides an enjoyable ‘new normal’ experience with flexible payment methods and a digital ordering system,” he said.

Making traditional solutions more efficient than ever

Drive-thrus have existed for decades, but it was only during COVID-19 that QSRs realised the importance of innovating this piece of road. Most customers turned to drive-thru in 2020, resulting in longer queues and wait times that in turn led to customers baulking and leaving before they could even place their order.

Eyecue™ from Fingermark™ is considered the world’s most advanced Customer Journey System. Eyecue™ utilises artificial intelligence (AI) to improve speed and accuracy of service in a QSR’s drive-thru channel. Using machine learning, Eyecue™ enables restaurant staff to make changes to optimise their operations before it even slows down. This includes such things as opening another drive-thru window or swapping a cashier with someone who is more experienced.

Customers could also benefit  from outdoor digital displays that direct customers to the fastest way of getting their food² prompting customers to order via a self-service kiosk, use the mobile app, or go through the drive-thru lane.

Fingermark™ has worked with popular QSR brands around the world to install highly intuitive self-service kiosks that provide real-time updates and synchronisation, while giving customers a convenient way to place their orders.

Like drive-thrus, self-service kiosks are not totally new, but Fingermark™ has found a way to make it a need-to-have in QSRs, especially as customers continue to avoid face-to-face transactions. Many KFC restaurants throughout Australia and New Zealand have Fingermark-powered self-service kiosks prominently displayed near their entry doors³. McDonald’s in the US has also embarked on a program to integrate kiosks in all of its stores by 2020.

The universal rule: options

As customers navigate the new normal, they will find themselves in different situations that call for a multitude of options. Whether they want to catch up with their friends on a socially distant date, order lunch from their workstation at home, or do a pickup by the curbside on the way to the supermarket, QSRs must be ready to accommodate and offer a hassle-free experience.

Sad as it may be, there is no going back to pre-COVID times. To win in the QSR game, business owners should revolutionise their store designs and offer solutions that their customers want and need, from drive-thrus to digital apps. There is no one-size-fits-all.







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