Is Your Restaurant Ready for Drive-Thru?

Many of the most popular quick-service chain restaurants in the world offer a drive-thru window at most of their locations — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts are several major players that rule the drive-thru. If you run an independent restaurant or small chain, is it worth the logistic and construction hassles of adding a drive-thru window?

On the plus side, a drive-thru could help boost your revenues, through increased visits, larger tickets, and access to new audiences. For instance:

Drive-thru tickets are often higher than walk-in tickets.

At Boloco, a fast-casual burrito chain with one drive-thru location, drive-thru sales are $1.50 to $1.75 higher on average than in-store sales. The company believes this is due to customers placing orders for multiple people when driving through, and also credits its new “combo” drive-thru menu for the higher ticket size.

Drive-thrus can attract diners you’d otherwise miss out on.

Families with young kids, for instance, will often pass through a drive-thru window for a quick meal, when they might otherwise skip your establishment because of the inconvenience of going in together. Likewise, if you’re located in a major travel path, many travelers want the ability to take a meal break without leaving their car.

Drive-thrus can be expensive to construct.

If you’re leasing a restaurant space that already has a drive-thru, it may make sense to keep it. But if you need to start the construction from scratch, it could end up being a major undertaking. According to architecture expert John Milogos, constructing a drive-thru at an existing restaurant may cost up to 50% of your total capital. It may not even be feasible depending on the existing structure and the parking lot size. If it is, Milogos shares some tips on proper drive thru construction, though you’ll want to consult with an architect in person if you decide to go ahead with the plan.

If you’re not careful, your drive-thru may confuse your customers.

If you decide to offer a drive-thru, the venture may fail if you don’t plan your menu display carefully. Customers will have minimal time to plan their order, so be sure to develop large menu displays filled with photos, and consider offering menu items or combinations by number to simplify the ordering process.

Even though drive-thrus can be expensive and difficult to implement, consider the fact that the drive-thru lane can contribute as much as 70 percent of revenues for some restaurants, and may be worth the effort.

Image Credit: Tony Bernard