3 min read
The 2022 Annual Drive-Thru Study is here! This study was first launched 22 years ago and is the leading industry benchmark for drive-thru...
For over two decades, the Annual Drive-Thru Study has provided restaurant operators with benchmark data to track trends and compare their performance against key competitors. This time-based study uses mystery shopping to measure the performance of 10 leading quick-serve restaurant brands, including:
This year’s 23rd Annual Drive-Thru Study includes performance data across 5 key areas:
Below we’ll provide a taste of what’s included in this year’s report. But the full report, including a breakdown of how each brand performed, is available to download for free here.
Drive-thrus can be a big time-saver for consumers. Placing and receiving an order without having to park and leave their car is both quicker and more convenient. But only if the drive-thru is operating fast and efficiently.
As brands have continued to optimize their drive-thrus, we’ve seen timeliness improve since 2022. The total time from when our shoppers entered the drive-thru line until they exited averaged 5m 43s across all brands included in this year’s study — 29 seconds less than last year.
This improvement was mostly due to decreased wait time which dropped by an average of 25 seconds. Wait time is defined as the time from when the shopper enters the drive-thru line to when they start to place their order. Since customers can easily leave the line before placing their order, the faster brands can get them to the order window the better.
Service time, the time it takes for shoppers to place their order until they exit the drive-thru with their food, only improved by 4 seconds. This presents an opportunity for brands who can find additional efficiencies to really stand out from the competition.
Consumers want their food fast, but it’s equally important that it’s their food. Order accuracy is a crucial aspect of the drive-thru experience. If customers leave the pick-up window with an incorrect order, it’s even more of an inconvenience to get it corrected than if they were dining in the restaurant.
Here we saw a slight improvement in order accuracy with the average score increasing by 1% compared to 2022. But the average accuracy score in 2023 was 86%. This means more than 1 in 10 orders received by customers were incorrect.
A simple way for brands to improve accuracy is to ensure clear communication between staff and customers. For example, accuracy was 18% higher when the speaker customers used to place their order was clear and understandable. As brands continue to leverage new technology, such as AI voice ordering, it will be imperative to ensure these tools are enhancing the experience rather than adding friction points.
Suggestive selling is an excellent way for brands to draw attention to new items or offers as well as increase the average order value. Historically we’ve seen suggestive selling also have a positive impact on total time, but this year it added an average of 10 seconds to service time.
However, when the suggestive sell occurred after the order was placed total time was 28 seconds faster than when it occurred during the initial greeting. This highlights the importance of ensuring these practices are inserted into the process effectively and efficiently.
Emerging technology such as AI chatbots present an opportunity to optimize suggestive selling. On average, only 56% of the interactions we measured across all brands included suggestive selling. But brands such as Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, who were among the top 3 brands using suggestive selling this year, have implemented AI technology at many of their locations that, in reported test cases, achieved an 88% upsell offer rate to guests*.
Naturally, the quality of the food offered by restaurants will be a major factor when consumers are deciding where to purchase their next meal. Brands can source the best ingredients and perfect their recipes, but the drive-thru operations have a significant impact on how the quality of food is perceived by customers.
This year we saw that temperature had a major impact in this category. Food quality, defined as when the food tasted “as expected”, was 35% higher when it was received hot. Improvements to service time will increase the likelihood that customers receive their order at the intended temperature. In this way, ongoing improvements to service time should have a positive impact on food quality scores.
Ultimately, winning a customer's loyalty and their return business will come down to their overall satisfaction with the experience provided. And all the factors discussed previously will have an impact on their level of satisfaction.
This year, the overall satisfaction score across all brands measured was 90%. While this is a 1% increase over last year, it still means 1 in 10 customers were left unsatisfied with their experience. So what can brands do?
We found friendliness had a profound impact on satisfaction. When shoppers reported the service was friendly, overall satisfaction was 84% higher. However, the average friendliness score across brands was only 73% — leaving significant room for improvement.
The 2023 Annual Drive-Thru Study dives deeper into each area discussed above including a breakdown of how each brand included in the study performed. Download your free copy today via the button below or click here.
Brands looking to get involved in 2024’s report can reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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