The Drive in the QSR

Since the implementation of the modern QSR drive in solutions, operators and IT have tinkered with set up processes and technologies to create a fast, efficient, and pleasant service model for it’s customers.

Innovations like wireless headsets, customer-order-displays (COD) or order-confirmation-boards (OCB) helped the operators to optimize the drive thru experience. Whereas we see 60–70 percent of business running thru the drive lanes in the US, the average QSR drive business in Europe will be between 30-45 percent.

In this article I like to focus on the high level technical aspects of a drive solution, even if a properly set up drive thru solution incorporates all aspects of the order taking process including: order presentation, order taking, production, audio systems, vehicle detection, lane timing, reporting and lane configuration.

There are various ways setting up a drive operationally, mostly dependent on number of guests, size of the location, drive ratio, etc..


The proper driver set up


Drive configurations

Single lane configuration

The classical Setup. A single drive thru lane with a single order pole called OCB (order confirmation board) or COD (customer order display). One or two serving windows from the Restaurant. With one window you combine assembling, hand-over and payment. With two windows you can split assembling and hand-over from the payment. This allows more cars per hour, but requires a longer drive lane.

Tandem configuration

A single drive thru lane with two order poles, behind each other. This setup allows a higher number of cars w/o adding much construction work compared to a single lane. Since the cars are still in sequence the operational process (one or two windows) can stay the same. I suggest guiding the customer with a clear signage, when to order on the first pole and when to move forward to the second one. Modern drive poles offer a LED type of intelligent signage, guiding the customer to the right pole

Dual lane configuration

A double drive thru line with two parallel order poles ending in a single service lane. This setup allows more cars, but requires a change in the operational process, since the cars are not longer in sequence. The operational challenge of the missing sequence can be solved with smart applications or CCTV system. An example of a smart application is to take a photo (either of CCTV or a camera in the pole) of the car while ordering and put it as background picture on the re-called order. This helps the crew to visually connect order and car.

Side by side configuration

A double drive thru lane with two order poles ending in a two different service lanes. Beside the construction effort and the additional space, can this setup be handled as two single drive thru lanes. This concept was discussed several times with several customers, but finally I never implemented this set up. The most heard reasons for not moving forward in this way are complexity as well as the high implementation cost.


The Drive software

As always the software is critical success factor for modern drive thru solutions. We have mainly three software systems need to work seamlessly together: The POS Software needed to enter and recall stored orders and to feed the production system as well as the drive software.

The production software need to be able to pick-up and label orders coming from the drive thru order taker. This ensures production and assembling for the placed drive order.

The main feature of the drive software is to present the customer the order in a easy and understandable way on the OCB (order confirmation board) or COD (customer order display). The other very important feature is to allow the crew the management of the drive order (re-order,  set on park, indicate as served, etc.).

My personal top 5 for the Drive software

#1 use text instead of pictures

Research showed that text-based COD/OCB’s (white on black / black on white) is easier understood by the customer as pictures showing the order. Please remember that the customer is more than one meter away from the screen.

#2 Run it in the Restaurant

Select a system where the COD/OCB software is running on a computer in the Restaurant. Either on a separate PC in the drive booth, or directly on the POS system. This will reduce the hardware and maintenance cost. Main reason for saving cost on the hardware side is that, a computer inside the Restaurant has no need to be dried, cooled or/and heated.

#3 Show changes

The software should be able to let the customer follow up on his order changes. Cross out changes or deletions of the order instead of make them disappear. This allows the customer to clearly follow his order and increase the order accuracy for drive orders.

#4 Use different names

Make sure that the software is able to allow you to maintain the text label for ordered items. In most cases the product labels on the POS are perfect for crew, but hard to understand for the customer. The software should also be able to group products like value meals, to offer the customer a quick and easy identification.

#5 Show BIG totals

The total of the order should be shown as clear and big as possible. This allows the customer to prepare himself for the payment and speeds up the processing time.


The Drive hardware

I like to focus on the drive pole (COD/OCB) in the hardware section, knowing there would be a lot more things to cover like the Audio system or the car detection. I will shortly discuss these two aspects on the end of the document.





Car detection

The car detection in the drive thru can add some real advantages to your drive thru setup. The pre-detection alerts the crew that a customer is entering the drive lane. It triggers also the start of the screen and the automatic welcome message on the OCB/COD when the customer arrives. A proper set up allows  the measurement of service times differentiated by order, payment, park and pick-up.

Ultrasonic sensor

ultrasonic sensor

The Ultrasonic sensor is placed in the COD/OCB pole. The advantages are that the ultrasonic sensor is easy to install, cost effective and needs no construction work. The disadvantages of this solution are that you do not have different loops, necessary to measure times and it is not working properly in curves.

Magnetic loop

magnetic loop

The loop(s) are placed on different points of the drive lane. This allows a proper measurements of times. The advantages of this solution are the very good reliability as well as the discussed measurement points (loops). The disadvantage are mainly the construction costs.

Audio system

Nothing slows down drive thru performance 
like poor sound quality. Unclear communication leads to more mistakes, slower service times
 and reduced profits. A standard digital audio set includes normally: the base station, the head set(s), the speaker, the microphone, batteries and charger.

My personal top 4 for the Audio system

#1 The crew head set and belt pack

Very important for a excellent service delivery is the comfort, weight and ease of use of the crew headset. Robustness and reliability is a must for continuous service.

#2 The microphone

To understand the customer and his order properly, is essential for good service. The microphone need to be voice optimized and provide a good working noise and echo cancellation.

#3 Automated greetings

The audio system should provide automatic greetings. It should be able to differentiate between day parts and offer specials automatically. Of course it should provide an intercom feature for the crew to talk to each other.

#4 Other accessories

The selected audio system should provide helpful accessories like: listen-only headsets to allow kitchen or assembling to listen; a telephone interface to allow to pick up the phone over the headset, etc.


That’s it for today – thanks for reading!!!

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