Jeremy Julian

Drive-thru Innovations with Mobile Apps

July 5, 2017

Have you ever used the Starbucks mobile app? For those who have not, a user can make an order, pay for that order, drive to their designated store, walk in and walk out with everything they wanted without having to interact with anyone. The app is a huge success. So let’s pose this question: why are restaurants not taking note? Well, there are a couple who are and they are revolutionizing the drive-thru experience entirely.


Mobile apps are helping to speed up service in the drive-thru as operators look for more ways technology can improve the customer experience.


“Even if a customer phones in an order, we tell them they can come through the drive-thru for food pickup at the window,” says Brian Landstrom, chief financial officer for the parent company of 17-unit Meatheads Burgers & Fries restaurants, which includes four with drive-thrus. “People are shocked when we tell them that. It’s a great customer service point.”

Meatheads did not begin with drive-thrus in mind, but the convenience was added for customers, and to retain to-go sales during inclement weather, Landstrom says.


“It can help drive revenue in those off periods, when the weather is bad and customers do not want to get out of their car, or you have a mom with kids coming from practice or school and she doesn’t want to drag three kids out of the car to come in to pick up a to-go order,” he says.


Think about this for a minute: your restaurant has the ability to still connect with customers even without them sitting down in the restaurant. They can still enjoy their favorite food, regardless of their personal situation or external factors, such as weather. How many times have you or a family member not wanted to go to a restaurant because of A. the wait and B. the time investment (sitting down, waiting on a server, paying for a check, then driving home)? We have all said it, “Let’s just get something quick.”


Now, your restaurant can be that ‘something quick.’ You can compete with services like UberEats, Food trucks, fast-food and food delivery services. If implemented correctly, customers can use your restaurant constantly, for any occasion.


Future developments for drive-thrus may be beacons, radio frequency identification tags or GPS locators that would allow consumers who have already placed an order and paid for it—online or via a mobile app—to simply drive up to a window, pick up their order and drive off without having to interact with anyone.


“We’ve seen the Amazon Go stores where you walk in, check out items automatically and walk out,” says Darren Tristano, president of Technomic. “There’s no reason to think this will not happen for drive-thru.”


Google is testing a Hands Free app that enables customers to pay for items without handing a clerk a credit card or cash, or even their phone to scan. The app is in test with retailers in Northern California, including McDonald’s and Papa John’s.


The future is here. How will your restaurant change with the times?


Need to pass the time between our next post? Then check out Custom Business Solutions for all your restaurant technology needs!

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