What Will The Drive-Thru of The Future Look Like?

Categories: News
I'll admit I don't give a ton of thought to the state of drive-thru restaurants (they're quick, they're cheap, they're making us all obese--what more is there?), but one team of consultants has been watching them slowly become food-industry dinosaurs. Ohio-based Big Red Rooster, a "multidimensional brand experience firm" with clients such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries and White Castle, has found that while drive-thrus (aka "quick service restaurants") have become more efficient over the last four decades, their "impersonal, drive-around-back experience" has remained the same. 

The company just put out a report on how to make the drive-thru experience connect with guests. But is that really what we want? Here's what their ideal drive-thru of the future will look like. 

"Minimizing visual barriers between drive-thru guests and staff creates opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Incorporating video will increase engagement and humanize the experience."
Sorry, but I don't really need face-time with the pimply high schooler who's quietly judging the mess on my front seat. To me, driving through a fast-food joint strangely feels like the Walk of Shame--you hide your face and try to get the hell out out of there with as little human interaction as possible. 
"Open-view windows give drive-thru guests a better look inside. Allowing them to see signs of life, such as the cook staff in action, builds trust."
Yeah, I really don't need to see how Flaming Hot Cheetos were inserted into my burrito. I know it ain't pretty and I'm okay with that. 
"Smartphone technology can enable preorder/prepay capabilities, support loyalty programs and store menu preferences, creating a customized experience."
Okay, sure, why not? 

"On-the-go drive-thru guests prefer to stay in their automobiles and get back on the road. Auto-friendly packaging, such as lap trays or containers that fit into standard cup holders, makes unwrapping, securing and eating food easier."
Sigh. This is what society has come to and there's no turning back. Ah, well. Bring on the lap trays! 

"[Restaurants] can retain guests through designated 'park and eat' spaces. Extending WiFi into the parking lot, providing a branded radio station or offering guest-controlled television screens enhance the experience."
WiFi in the parking lot? I sometimes work in the field, so I'll take it. As for branded radio or TV stations? You mean, creepy special messages from Ronald McDonald? No thanks. 

"A vending machine filled with on-the-go items, such as stain removers or gum, showcases that restaurants understand mobile diners' needs."
Makes sense. 

"Walkup windows can accommodate on-the-go walking and biking guests, and bike racks provide added convenience." 
Wait, do people who walk and bike eat fast food?  

"Providing electric car charging stations and placing recycling receptacles along the drive-thru path highlight environmental consciousness."  
Again, probably not the target audience of drive-thru restaurants. 

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In-N-Out (or at least the one off La Paz in Laguna Niguel) already offers some of these "new" services. Instead of talking into a speaker, someone is standing outside taking your order. You can choose whether you want to eat it "now" (they unwrap the burger and serve it in a cardboard tray) or "later" (the usual to-go bag). If you eat it "now" they even offer you a paper placemat for your lap. I don't do drive-thru often, so I thought that was neat (sorry if I bore the drive-thru regulars who already knew this).


The drive thru of the near future will look like this: You'll drive in and an Indian will take your order in India and enter into the computer where it will be filled. You'll drive around to the windows and swipe a card and take it out out of a drop drawer (like you do when you do drive thru banking). No American jobs even needed.


"What Will The Drive-Thru of The Future Look Like?"

After two terms under Bush and just ONE under Obama ..America HAS NO FUTURE.  


"What Will The Drive-Thru of The Future Look Like?"

Like a GAS STATION, with people pulling up to huge pumps where nozzles loaded with PINK SLIME will be rammed down their throats in order to 'feed' them.

Would you like an OIL CHANGE with those re-constituted 'fries'?


"What Will The Drive-Thru of The Future Look Like?"

Regardless of what they look like, at this rate they'd better be able to accept FOOD STAMPS in lieu of actual paymentif they expect to sell anything.

How's THAT for some "Hopey-Changey You Can Believe In®"?

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

"'[Restaurants] can retain guests through designated 'park and eat' spaces. Extending WiFi into the parking lot, providing a branded radio station or offering guest-controlled television screens enhance the experience.'"

Wait. So you wait the extra time in the drive-thru (which is almost always slower than the counter) just to park and eat in the car?

Just goes to prove that just because you can put some bullet points on a PowerPoint slide doesn't mean you're a genius... and the last time I biked through a drive-thru, I was turned away. (Thanks, Carl's Jr. at Katella and State College!)

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