Have Drive-Thru Locations? Take a Cue From McDonald’s


Looks like McDonald’s drive thru is slowing down a bit – according to a study conducted by QSR Magazine, their drive thru wait time, from start to finish, is 189.49 seconds, which falls 9 seconds below industry average.

I worked at a McDonald’s in high school, and still vividly remember when corporate would test the drive thru – talk about nerve wracking! They would stand outside the menu board, and each window, with stopwatches, to ensure that wait times were as quick as possible.

According to a recent article, McDonald’s is attempting to solve the problem by adding a drive-thru window, which they refer to as “Fast Forward Drive Thru” which incorporates a third window for those who reach the pick up window before their order is ready.

But what else can be causing slower than average wait times at McDonald’s? Take a look at the list and see if any of these hold true for your drive thru locations:

1.  Not having an extra pick up window: the company believes that this may be part of the problem. To that end, they are incorporating a third window for those orders that aren’t quite ready. The traditional way McDonald’s has dealt with this issue is having customers pull forward or to a designated parking spot on the side. While this can move the line along, it may cause delays in other ways.

First, the staff needs to run out to the car, which could add time to the process, while taking time from assembling orders or assisting other customers. Secondly, for this to be effective, employees need to honor the process. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced some employees who would rather you sit at the window and hold up the line rather than move you to a parking space in the lot because it’s cold, rainy, etc, and they don’t feel like running out. This isn’t specific to McDonald’s I’m sure, but I’ve seen it happen.

2. Too much, too soon: McDonald’s USA President admitted that part of the problem might be their menu selection. In rolling out too many new items in short intervals, coupled with the fact that some of the menu items are more complex to make or take longer to cook, can result in longer wait times.

Add employee training and getting employees used to the new menu, and that can create a delay at the drive thru.

In addition to renovations, the company plans to provide additional training and engage employees in feedback surveys to identify and resolve any issues that may be playing into the increased drive thru times as well as general customer service issues.

Do you have similar drive thru issues? Do you think having limited windows is hindering your efforts? Most McDonald’s, at least in my area, have at least two windows – one for payment, and one for order pick up. Not every quick serve restaurant has his luxury, nor do they have money or space to add a window. What other things can you do to ensure drive-thru times are as quick as possible ?

Learn from the best: whether this means scoping out a competitor’s drive thru process or talking to your seasoned crew regarding their perceptions of the drive-thru experience and how to make improvements, listening and learning can go a long way in making changes.

Do it the Portillo’s way: Portillo’s is a Chicago based QSR that boasts probably the coolest drive thru processes I’ve ever seen. The location closest to me always has a line around the building, yet wait times aren’t any longer than one would expect for a quick meal.

What’s their secret? Extra staff serving as a human drive-thru speaker. During high volume times, staff are outside in the drive thru lane manually taking orders. The first staff you encounter takes your order and places a number on your windshield. After a few moments, another staff member approaches you to take payment. That leaves their two windows free for distributing meals. If you haven’t been to Portillos yet, you might want to make a visit next time you’re near one. It’s fascinating to watch!

QSR Magazine offered some ways to improve the drive-thru experience; take a look at what they’ve suggested. They offered a wide range of small ways to make the entire experience more favorable for guests.

With 70% of revenue for McDonald’s coming from its drive-thru, it’s no surprise that they realize improvement needs to be made. Customers expect quick service, especially when using the drive-thru. Looking to find your strengths and areas of challenge can make things better before there’s an issue. It’s never too late, but definitely better to be proactive than finding out there is an issue later.

Comments are closed.