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6 Questions Multi-Unit Restaurants Should Ask About Adding Drive-Thrus

September 5, 2019 / by Jean Jones

Drive-Thru Solutions for Restaurants

You have decided to invest in installing drive-thru systems for your restaurants. Great! Having a drive-thru has many benefits. 
They give your guests another easy way to enjoy your amazing products, give you an additional revenue source, and increase the value of your business. The financial benefits are pretty easy to see, but some of the questions you should ask before moving ahead might not be quite as obvious. You are ready to get started, but here are some things you should consider first.

1. Should Your Drive-Thru System be Standardized?

Do you have a plan if the customer experience is different at different restaurants? Things can vary location to location, from the placement of order boxes, to whether you provide the comfort of a canopy and even the vibrancy of the colors on the menu boards. What one franchisee thinks looks fantastic at his restaurant might be very different from what you had in mind when you started this process. Keeping your brand appearance consistent throughout your chain is both necessary and challenging to do with various providers for each component. Besides, you lose product consistency when using resources with varying standards of fabrication. Look for a provider who can deliver the same customer experience no matter where your locations are throughout the country.

2. Who Will Design Your Menu Boards?

Sign companies are good at producing signs, but in most cases, you have to provide the art files. You could have your advertising agency produce them, but do they know how to create layouts to maximize revenue? Do you want to juggle half-qualified vendors as you look for something that will soon be a key revenue generator? You can save time and cost while streamlining the process by selecting an experienced provider who knows how to engineer drive-thru menu boards specifically for restaurants.

3. Do You Have to Design Multiple Versions of the Menu Board?

Drive-thru menu boards come in many shapes and sizes to accommodate menu content. The components and accessories can vary, as well. When you think about menu board design, standardizing dimensions and components will save time and money, especially if you need to install drive-thru systems at multiple locations. Imagine the expense of designing a 3-door menu board with 27-inch panels for one site, and alternately a 5-door unit with 18-inch panels for another. The menu board engineering and construction would be done separately for each site, along with the cost of each redesign added to your overhead. Seeking a single-source provider for one menu board design assures brand continuity throughout your chain and a consistent layout of your menu contents within the menu board.

4. Will the Menu Board Hold Up and Will You Be Able to Get Replacement Parts?

Your drive-thru and its accessories will take a beating. Weather, frequent opening and closing of doors and erratic drivers are the most obvious hazards for a drive-thru system. Quality construction is critical. Not only does it add value to your asset, but it also makes an impression on your guests. Having a drive-thru system out of operation is not acceptable, and it should look like it is put together well. Verify that your drive-thru array is built to withstand the elements, and make sure that the provider will still be around to offer the parts and service you need.

5. Can You Economize on Shipping?

You could order from several providers and have equipment shipped separately from numerous locations to your restaurant sites. Speaker posts, digital displays, static/print menu boards, headsets, canopies, light fixtures, and clearance bars are pretty standard features of any drive-thru, and lots of small shops manufacture them. There are a few obvious pitfalls to this approach. First, all of this juggling can create a nightmare of coordination and timing with your installers. Lost time is lost money. Second, shipping each item individually from different suppliers to various locations is cost-inefficient.

6. Can You Streamline the Process with One Provider?

Simple answer, yes. The Howard Company is the one-stop-shop and the recognized industry leader in designing restaurant drive-thru systems. We have everything covered, from the design of the menu board and drive-thru components through installation. The robust warranty on all of our products offers the assurance we stand behind our products. We have been around since 1950, so you can feel confident that we will be able to service your installation for years to come.

One last thing is crucial - careful planning during the entire process. Having installed thousands of drive-thrus across the U.S., the drive-thru experts at The Howard Company can assist. Start with knowing what to expect and when by referencing checklist for planning your new drive-thru.


This article was originally published on May 16, 2018. It has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Topics: Drive-Thru, Restaurants

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.