The Howard Company Blog

Drive-Thru Equipment Explained in Fewer Than 140 Characters

May 14, 2019 / by Jean Jones

Anatomy of a Drive Thru

You are wisely considering adding a drive-thru to your business. Considering the increasing demand for convenience, this is necessary for certain types of businesses. We understand that sometimes we use language that may not be quite as clear to our customers as we think. Hopefully, this glossary resolves that. Here are terms you will likely hear as you research what you need for your new drive-thru.

Anchor Shroud - Cover for the base of the canopy or clearance bar.

Canopy - A cover over the ordering station where the driver is exposed to weather. It also illuminates the ordering area, offering security to the customer.

Clearance Bar - A bar that indicates the maximum height the drive-thru can accommodate, protecting canopies and awnings from damage from taller vehicles.

Content Management System - The software that stores the menu content for digital menu boards.

Directional Sign - The first point of contact with a drive-thru customer, pointing first-time customers to the drive-thru lane.

Wayfinding Sign - Can be a directional sign but also a sign confirming that the customer is in the right place.

Drive-Thru Menu Board - The main menu board in your drive-thru, often described by the number of "doors", which are individual panels.

Dual Lane - Drive-thrus with two menu boards and ordering stations.

Manager Special Sign - A simple sign posted anywhere in the drive-thru lane that provides additional information about specials.

Order Confirmation System or OCS - A screen that visually confirms to the customer that their order has been correctly entered. It is connected to the POS system.

Presell Board - A menu board installed before the ordering station, often smaller than the main board. It speeds up service and allows for suggestive selling.

Preview Board - See above, another name for Presell Board.

Rotating Helix - Swivel mechanism on the base of the canopy or clearance bar that spins the equipment if a vehicle contacts the top bar or canopy.

Speaker Post - A post that contains the speaker and microphone to which the communication system is connected when there is no OCS.

Timer/Statistics System Software - Using data from magnetic loops, measure and display key performance metrics, including the number of cars in the drive-thru and total visit time.

Vehicle Detection System - Alerts the team when new customers arrive in the drive-thru lane and when they arrive at the pay and pick-up windows.

Magnetic Loop or Vehicle Detector Loops - Installed in the driveway, the loops use magnetic fields to detect the presence of metal.

Saw-cut Loop - Magnetic loop installed after the surface is present, requiring the installer to cut into to surface to lay the wire.

Direct Burial Loop - Magnetic loop installed before the surface is poured.

Wait Area - An area close to the pick-up window and out of the way of exiting drive-thru traffic where vehicles park while the order is being prepared.

Wait Stacking Space - The open space between the menu board and the pick-up window. The ideal is four car lengths or forty feet.

Adding a drive-thru to your business can be complicated, which is why it is important to do your homework. If you need help designing your drive-thru, the professionals at The Howard Company are able to answer all of your questions

This post was originally written in May 2019. It has since been revised as of February 2023.

Anatomy of a Drive-Thru

Topics: Drive-Thru, Drive-Thru Accessories

Jean Jones

Written by Jean Jones

Jean Jones started in restaurant marketing in 1996 when she and her husband operated two fine dining restaurants in Wisconsin. After a detour into marketing for a real estate development firm, she returns to the restaurant industry with The Howard Company.