Canadian food businesses have had to get creative over the last twelve months with how they serve their customers. Many food businesses adopted a take-out and delivery model for the first time in order to keep bringing in revenue while indoor dining was restricted. Some food businesses, particularly fast food chains, we able to continue using their drive-thrus to keep their customers coming and their revenue stable. Having a drive-thru continues to be a definite advantage, especially as many provinces deal with the second wave of COVID-19.
But what about food businesses that don't have drive-thrus? Is adding a drive-thru to certain food businesses possible? Read on to learn how adopting a drive-thru business model may not be as complicated as it seems.
How to adopt a drive-thru business model
The important thing to understand about adding a drive-thru to a food business is that it doesn’t have to involve a drive-thru window. Food businesses can and should get creative with how to have a drive-thru, without the obstacle of installing a window.
Check local laws and regulations
Before any official decisions are made, food businesses must follow up with their regional guidelines about what they can legally do. There may be laws and restrictions that hinder the ability to add a drive-thru service to the food business. It is always better to know what the laws are instead of making a costly mistake.
Plan the ordering system
First, a food business needs to make a plan for how customers will order their food. One way is to have customers call in to place their order or order online through the business website. Customers would then come to the location and wait in a designated waiting area.
Another way is to have customers place their orders by using a QR code on their phones when they arrive at the business location. Similarly, food businesses can have staff members come out to cars in a designated waiting area and have customers place their orders on tablets.
No matter the ordering system that is used, it is important to ensure that it is affordable for the food business to implement. If it is too costly to implement a drive-thru system then it's best to stick with the current business model.
Plan the outdoor area
Once an ordering system has been decided upon, it's essential to figure out where customers will wait to receive their orders. Will customers drive up to the front of the food business or will there be designated parking spots? These are the key things to consider when planning how the drive-thru will be operated. Food businesses also need to acquire outdoor signage to instruct customers and indicate where waiting areas are.
Plan the delivery
An important step in the planning process is deciding how customers will get their food. Depending on the layout of the business, customers can obtain their food in a variety of ways. The simplest and most cost-effective way is to have customers call when they arrive and have a staff member bring the food out to the customers' cars. This will involve the use of physical distancing measures as well as personal protective equipment (PPE).
Another avenue is to use a locker to place food containers in. The benefit of this option is that multiple meals can be waiting for customers at the same time. Customers can call the food business when they arrive and be told which locker their food is waiting in as well as a passcode. The cons to this option is that food can get cold if waiting in the locker for too long, especially in the colder months. Also, the food business will need suitable space to place the lockers as well as the passcodes to the lockers will need to be changed frequently.
Plan the payments
Deciding how customers will pay is an essential part of the planning process. A simple way is to have customers pay for their meal over the phone or online, just like a take-out or delivery order. If that isn’t possible, staff members will need to bring out a portable payment terminal to the customers. In this case, PPE must be worn by the staff members and physical distancing must be maintained. Customers should also be encouraged to pay by Tap if possible, which reduces the touching of the terminal.
Plan the menu
Traditional drive-thru menus involve meals that can be made quickly and easily in order to serve as many customers as quickly as possible. Food businesses must decide which meals can be ordered through the drive-thru based on the ability to make them easily and how well they will transport them. These meals will most likely be similar if not exactly the same to the ones provided for take-out and delivery.
The benefits of drive-thrus during the pandemic
While it may be significant work to adopt a drive-thru model, there are many benefits of drive-thrus for food businesses. First, the convenience is attractive to customers. Customers enjoy the option to order their food, pay for it easily and then pick it up quickly. The other benefit is that drive-thrus involve limited contact which is very important as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Not only does it keep staff and customers safe, but it is an added incentive for customers to order from your food business. Customers like knowing that they can support their favourite food businesses while preventing the spread of COVID-19. This can mean an increase in customers and an increase in revenue.
Lastly, adding a drive-thru can make a food business more adaptable to the changing times. It is still unclear how long the pandemic will last and what the food industry will look like in the years to come. Having another revenue stream with a drive-thru can help food businesses better position themselves financially and operationally.