The Evolution of Technology in Food Service - Part 3 of 3

Posted on: November 12, 2021
By: Dina Townsend


In our first installment of our 3-part series on The Evolution of Technology in Food Service, we looked at the way indoor dining has been impacted by the pandemic. In Part 2, we explored the “In’s & Out’s” (get it 😉) of Take Away. In our final installment we will tackle the very specialized and vital element of Drive-Thru. On average, the Drive-Thru is responsible for 60-70% of a quick serve restaurant’s (QSR) revenue and yet, only about 20% of Drive-Thru’s have digital menu boards. This is an area of missed opportunity that many large brands are starting to seriously evaluate. No surprise, the pandemic and the safety afforded to customers by having a contactless journey has escalated the value proposition in this key area, and the race is on! This area has become so important that many QSR’s are expanding their Drive-Thru to include multiple lanes and overhead signage that communicates brand and promotional messaging to cars in line.

drive_thru_menu Successfully implementing digital in Drive-Thru is a very different animal. So much so, that many restaurants chose a separate system to operate this area; meaning they use a different CMS from the one they use to drive their indoor menu boards. This is impractical at best, but it is nonetheless a sign of the varied and unique considerations of this area. To be clear, a proper content management system (CMS) should absolutely have the capacity and feature set to easily drive all areas of the QSR environment including indoor digital menu boards, queue management, interactives, outdoor Drive-Thru boards, and promotional signage. The right CMS should be able to treat these areas differently while still leveraging the same central management console, and ensuring operational efficiencies, consistency in support structures, and building economies of scale for the client.

drive_thru_cars While the Drive-Thru is presumably more efficient for the customer, it also provides an excellent opportunity to connect them with the brand and to increase the size of their order. This is also an exceptional opportunity to promote high margin items such as coffee, tea, or ice cream.

The Drive-Thru can be dynamic in that screens can be leveraged to show broader brand content when no one is in the drive through lane. Once a car is sensed, which can be done by several trigger mechanisms, menu board content can be initiated and then loop back to brand content once the car has completed their transaction. Among many important considerations here are readability which includes the size and font of the text, the clarity of that text, the resolution of the screen and screen brightness, as well as an overall easy to read arrangement of items. Menu board screens, while they can show brand content when not in use, should not loop between menu and limited time offer or promotional content as that creates a frustrating and confusing experience for the patron as they wait for the items to present back on screen so they can finish making their decisions. A better experience is to have a dedicated screen that plays this type of content either overhead before reaching the menu boards while cars are in the queue or next to the main menu boards.

drive_thru_food_car As with nearly all digital signage projects, the role of the integrator is important here. Drive-Thru projects bring many technology decision and integration points such as POS integration, cameras and audio equipment, weather considerations when choosing hardware, and even perhaps dealing with municipalities. As a software provider, YCD focuses on the ways that QSRs can use digital signage to realize an ROI and make the customer experience more efficient and enjoyable. QSR’s that are achieving this are realizing sales uplifts of around 20% in some cases. The role of the CMS platform here is to extend the communication mechanism throughout the enterprise from a single back-end management console, but also to allow for things like content scheduling, dayparting, and making real time adjustments to the menu content that reflect changes in available items, substitutions, and pricing. As Drive-Thru’s become busier because of the pandemic, providing useful content such as weather, news, or traffic on menu board tickers adds value to the customer and offers the brand the potential to sell ad space on these screens.

As we noted in Part 2 of this series, but it bears repeating, we talk a lot in the technology space about Day 2 issues and how to mitigate their impact on digital signage. They are the ‘unknown unknowns’. The pandemic has taught us that every single day in the life of our communication efforts must be one punctuated by agility, flexibility, accuracy, and immediacy. The Drive-Thru is an important revenue generating element of the QSR ecosystem. It is a specialized area and one that has many moving parts. The YCD team and our global partners have the expertise and solutions that make it easier to navigate and more likely to succeed. Our team is ready to help you!

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