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6 Essential Steps to Increase Drive-Thru Restaurant Sales

 As your guests leave, you likely call out, “Hope to see you again!”. 

And it’s a great feeling when they actually do come back for a second helping, and even better when they become regular customers. 

Of course, the quality of your snacks, sauces, and seasoning plays a huge part in leaving your customers wanting more, but that’s not the only factor—a perfect (or near-perfect!) customer experience is essential for retaining guests and attracting new ones.

The QSR industry faces mounting pressure to deliver a faster, digital, and more convenient service in response to the higher-than-ever customer expectations. 58% of guests say they’re setting the stakes higher now than they did a year ago, and it’s essential that you’re hitting the bar.

In response to your customers wanting more and more, it can feel like you’ll need to overhaul your business to keep a smile on their faces—but that’s not the case. With over 70% of QSR sales occurring at the drive-thru, why not start there?

In this blog, we break down 6 essential steps to help you develop a clear and modern drive-thru strategy, so you can give your customers everything they want, need, and expect from their experience.


1. Introduce a Loyalty Program

Loyalty cards are a key customer retention strategy. 57% of guests agree that they spend more with a loyalty program, and 55% said they’d download a fast food app to earn loyalty rewards. 

As well as incentivizing guests to return and increasing loyalty, it provides QSRs with opportunities to collect in-depth data. You can use this data to understand who is driving through your lanes and their preferences.

Not only will you be able to launch a digital loyalty program, but you’ll also be able to interpret any data you collect and keep up with the 96% of businesses prioritizing digital transformation.

Even if you already have a loyalty program in place, the next challenge is to ensure that you’re using it40% of employees forget to ask customers whether they have a loyalty card. Conversational AI, such as Auto, has been designed to increase upsells and mention “frequent diner” programs, so that you can make customer loyalty a core part of your guests’ drive-thru experience. 

2. Improve Order Accuracy

Drive-thrus can be hectic places. Busy roads, customers’ accents, loud cars, and high order volumes can cause difficulties when your employees receive orders from the lanes. Your guests might not recognize or appreciate these challenges, but they are certain to notice an incorrect order. 

Most QSR drive-thrus have a 10% error rate, meaning you’re potentially leaving 10% of your customers feeling disappointed and less likely to return. The best way to combat this is to remove human error from the equation, which isn’t possible…right?

In fact, it is possible by letting tech do the talking. Cutting-edge conversational AI like Auto can process mid-sentence changes, understand accents, work with complex menus, and understand guests over the humdrum of the drive-thru—leading to better order accuracy. 

Although replacing human employees at the drive-thru with AI sounds like a futuristic, theorized idea, it’s a reality for many QSRs across the US. Integrating Auto with their drive-thrus helped Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken Restaurant in Englewood, OH, see “improvements in our average check, service time, […] and consistency and customer service”. 

Your customers might come for your food, but they’ll stay for the efficiency and accuracy of your robot.

3. Invest in Automation

Employees are the cogs that keep your business turning…unless your tech can run the deck for you. 

By automating your drive-thru processes, your tech can seamlessly greet your customers, take orders, and upsell without a helping hand from your employees. Automation technology, such as conversational AI, inventory management software, and food preparation robots, often only require one-time integration.

If automation is handling the drive-thru process for you, you can free up your employees’ time for business-critical activities such as making food and customer service. 

With QSRs currently battling nationwide labor shortages, implementing tech that can pick up the slack provides welcome peace of mind. In some instances, automation can remove the need for employees altogether, therefore helping you fill urgent vacant positions and cut labor costs. Your operations can run in an optimized manner even in the absence of employees, which guarantees consistency of customer service.

The old saying “consistency is key” has never been more relevant. In this instance, consistency equals happy customers at the drive-thru, which equals more sales.

4. Ensure a Smooth Step-by-Step Experience

Customers are attracted to QSRs for the very thing the industry is named after—quick service. 

Queues and delays at the drive-thru defeat the main objective and these challenges can also leave customers feeling frustrated. Similarly, receiving an incorrect order, facing lousy service, or being asked to wait in a separate bay all contribute to a negative customer experience. 

By automating your drive-thru processes, you’ll reap the rewards of optimized macro-level tasks, such as order taking and receiving payments. But how can you take this one step further to benefit from automation on a micro-task level, like connecting your systems and reducing the time spent on each task?

Workflow automation has the answer. This is the process of streamlining, integrating, and connecting a series of tasks that are already independently automated. 

The little things add up. That’s why optimization on a micro-level contributes to your wider customer experience and helps you run an efficient drive-thru.

5. Keep Employee Engagement High With Training

Unexpected situations occur daily at the drive-thru. Every curveball presents an opportunity for your employees to prove their skills and quality service to your customers. So, how can you prepare them for the unknown?

Start with learning and development opportunities, which have been proven to help employees meet customers’ needs, be consistent, provide excellent customer service, and build better relationships with fellow teammates. 

Not only will your employees become more customer-centric, but further training can help boost their confidence in the workplace. Employee confidence is a two-way street, and you’ll also be able to rely on them to deliver when it matters most, such as when you’re short-staffed or during busy periods. 

Your investment in training will pay off financially, too, as engaged employees are more likely to improve customer relationships, which can lead to a 20% increase in sales. 

6. Go Large on Upselling Opportunities

Upselling can drive sales by 30%-50% by adding additional profit from existing customers. The question is, why do only 4% of employees attempt an upsell?

This could be down to a lack of training or confidence or a lack of time if your employees are attempting to rush through customers to keep drive-thru queues down. Overall, it can simply be forgotten. Whatever the reason is, one thing is for sure—missing out on upselling opportunities means missing out on more sales at the drive-thru.

Auto recognizes the importance of upselling for your business—which is why it’s programmed to do just that. Our built-in upsell playbook was designed to increase the value of your customers’ average order and offers an upsell in 70% of cases to ensure that you are always growing your drive-thru sales. 


Drive Higher Sales and More Customers Through Your Lanes

In an ideal world, customers will be spending just a few short minutes at your drive-thru, and it’s your job to make their pit-stop enjoyable, satisfactory, and memorable.

Increase order value, handle more customers, and provide quicker service with Auto. Our conversational AI has been designed with human nature in mind, so you can be confident that you’re delivering friendly and efficient customer service every time.

With the ability to process mid-sentence changes, a built-in upselling playbook, and seamless POS integration, Auto is always ready to work and steer your drive-thru sales north. 

See how automated drive-thru ordering works for you. Request a demo today.

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