What to Expect for the Future of QSR Drive-Thru Technology


    Drive-thrus have changed tremendously over the past year. The COVID crisis has led to a seismic shift in customer behavior in quick service restaurants. In-house dining has plummeted, or stopped all together, and drive-thru usage has skyrocketed.

    For some QSRs, this new mindset has decreased their overall traffic. Others, though, have stayed steady or increased traffic as people look for distractions to break up day-to-day life during lockdown.

    The Current State of Drive-Thru Tech

    Many drive-thrus have already implemented digital signage for their indoor and outdoor menus. These devices allow operators to quickly update the displays whenever menu items change, as well as add simple promotions for new or best-selling items. 

    For restaurants that haven’t made this switch, digital signage is a vital investment. Modern menu boards allow simple transition from one time-of-day menu offering to the next. The days of needing someone to physically go change out the drive-thru menu board are over. 

    Plenty of quick service restaurants have also added order confirmation screens to their drive-thru line. These are a great way to ensure order accuracy and customer satisfaction, since diners can review their order before employees push it through the system. 

    Some quick service restaurants have even begun having dual drive-thrus, where customers drive up to one of two menu boards and then converge at the pick-up window. Dual drive-thrus are incredibly helpful when the restaurant is busy and employees need to meet high customer demand. 

    Finally, some quick service restaurants, like certain Starbucks locations, have video menu boards available for patrons who need to use sign language. This feature makes your drive-thru more accessible to everyone and is a great addition to your tech stack. 

    Drive-Thru Tech of the Future

    There are many new technology innovations on the horizon for quick service restaurants. First and perhaps most notably is a designated mobile order pick-up lane. Thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are becoming increasingly comfortable ordering food from an app or online, but they are often hesitant to enter the restaurant to pick up their food. However, it’s equally frustrating to have to wait in a long drive-thru line, especially since they don’t need to place an order. Having a designated pick-up lane will be important to preserving the customer experience, which is something Chipotle already understands. They’ve begun calling their mobile pick-up line “Chipotlanes.”  

    Similarly, QSRs may consider adding “express lanes,” for people who have simple orders. This allows the people who are just grabbing a cup of coffee to make it through the line quicker than if they were waiting behind someone ordering breakfast for four people in the car.

    It may seem as though the COVID-19 pandemic has helped inspire a number of these upcoming drive-thru technology changes, but that’s not entirely the case. It’s more likely that the pandemic simply sped up the process of applying these innovations. 

    The pandemic has sped the development of new technologies and made their implementation more urgent.  That’s why chains like Taco Bell, McDonalds, and Chipotle have already begun innovating and installing new QSR tech. 

    If you’re looking for assistance implementing or maintaining restaurant IT, give Kinettix a call. We can help you find the best solution for your quick service restaurant.

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    Chad Mattix

    Written by: Chad Mattix

    A global IT executive experienced in establishing strategic partnerships for large U.S.-based organizations, Chad Mattix specializes in managed services, contract pricing and negotiation, and the startup and growth of technology services companies. Chad has spent the last 15 years helping large U.S. retailers and U.S.-based IT service providers expand their capabilities across the globe to follow their clients’ expansions. He has developed and completed full entity formations in Brazil and China and has worked with sales pursuit teams in messaging and client-facing presentations. He has also established global alliance and partnership models for multiple global IT organizations. Chad travels around the world to develop and maintain long-term relationships with employees, clients, vendors and partners, which are critical for success.





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