The drive-thru restaurant model has been a favourite with Australian consumers since it was first introduced over 40 years ago when McDonald’s opened their first drive-thru in Warrawong, New South Wales in 1978. Little did we realise then that our need for speed and convenience would lead to an explosion of retail outlets adopting the drive up counter. While McDonalds and KFC might have been early adopters, nowadays brands including Coffee Club, Guzman Y Gomez, Hungry Jacks, Gloria Jeans, Taco Bell, Zambrero, Starbucks and Oporto are all incorporating the format into their new outlets. In fact, Australia’s love of coffee is seeing a vast array of retailers, including small independents, developing a drive-thru option. But how has the format changed and what can we expect of the next generation of drive-thru retail outlets?
Convenience Over Community
It seems that one of the big changes over the last 40 years has been in consumer psychology. The pace of life has increased to such an extent that we now seem to value convenience over community. While we still love to eat out, we also want to be able to get hold of our favourite snacks and drinks on the go. It’s interesting to note that brands like Starbucks who have traditionally positioned themselves as building community in-store, are now prioritising the drive-thru model. Obviously, economics plays a significant role in this, with drive thru’s delivering higher margins than traditional outlets and making up more than half of all orders for Starbucks but it’s also about brands being responsive to changing consumer needs.
The most noticeable change that you would notice is the development in the technology being used. While many drive-thrus are still using the traditional speaker box approach for ordering, many franchises are now using the latest touchscreen ordering technology. This gives customers full control of their order, reduces the risk of miscommunication or error and speeds up order fulfilment. Many have also developed mobile ordering apps to further speed up the process. If payment can also be made on the app, the customer can simply slip through the drive-thru lane to collect their order.
While the technology might have changed the goal for all drive-thru outlets has remained consistent: get the order right first time, deliver great-tasting products and outstanding customer experience.
The Drive-Thru Lane
Another significant change over the last 40 years has been both the increase in vehicle size and the decrease in the size of the drive-thru lane. As real estate prices increase, the need to optimise the use of every square inch of a property’s footprint has become imperative. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that a customer’s car can come a little too close to the kerbside or approach the driveway a little too quickly.
One of the solutions now regularly being implemented by architects designing brand new drive thru’s is to use speed humps to try and reduce a drivers speed as they approach the drive-thru lane. In addition, more and more franchise owners are choosing to install rumble bars along the driveway to alert drivers that they are getting too close to the kerb and help them avoid any unnecessary damage to their car. After all, outstanding customer experience doesn’t stop with just the food. Car damage would leave a bad taste in the mouth.
At Speed Humps Australia we have worked with so many drive-thru owners to install these simple, cost-effective traffic management tools. They are also now becoming best-practice in new-build drive-thru restaurants, with many architects and builders including them in the spec at new sites.
If you manage a drive-thru restaurant and want to avoid complaints of car damage and keep your customers returning regularly, contact us today on 1300 138 568.