Is Opening a Drive-Thru the Best Move for My Business?


Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many regular restaurant-goers can’t eat in dining rooms, and some may not feel comfortable doing so even if their state regulations allow. Due to the circumstances, more and more restaurants are considering opening full-fledged drive-thrus to their operations.

Whether you’re new to the restaurant business or you’re ramping up an existing one, adding a drive-thru can be extremely profitable for your business. However, to open a successful drive-thru, you’ll need to invest time and money into proper preparation.

What are the Benefits of a Drive-Thru?

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to open a drive-thru, consider the following benefits which apply to all types of quick-service restaurants or even coffee shops.

With a drive-thru, you will be able to:

  • Serve more customers at a time
  • Process transactions faster
  • Earn loyalty from customers who need to eat on the go
    What are the Downsides of a Drive-Thru?
  • Opening a drive-thru means expanding your business, which is no small undertaking. You need time and resources to scale up accordingly. For example, you’ll need to adjust your parking lot, hire more staff to serve, and make sure you can process your transactions faster so you can serve drive-thru and dine-in customers simultaneously.

Before opening a drive-thru, you want to carefully consider:

  • What kind of customers will you be serving?
  • What hours should the drive-thru be open?
  • What will it cost me to open a Drive-Thru?
  • Do the benefits of opening a drive-thru outweigh the risks?
  • What physical changes do you need to make to add a drive-thru?

Why a Drive-Thru is a Good Business Move

While not every restaurant (for example, higher-end operations) would benefit from adding a drive-thru, it’s a great way to accommodate more customers even if your restaurant capacity is small. Drive-thrus, if run effectively:

  • Require less investment than physically expanding a restaurant’s dine-in space
  • Offer great returns
  • Reduce operating expenses
  • Bring more profit
  • Serve more customers
  • Create easy opportunities to upsell

However, the success of a drive-thru depends totally on the speed with which you process your transactions. Hiring more staff is critical, but you’ll also need to invest in an automated system that will help you process your transactions faster. Take the time to research the best drive thru systems and explore your options before you make your decision.

What do You Need to Open a Drive-Thru?

If you’re confident that a drive-thru would benefit your business but don’t know where to start, here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Step #1: Researching locations
  • Step #2: Defining your target market
  • Step #3: Analyzing your competition
  • Step #4: Defining your niche
  • Step #5: Building a business plan
  • Step #6: Creating a menu
  • Step #7: Deciding on the hours of operation
  • Step #8: Looking for investors
  • Step #9: Understanding the laws and the safety regulations that you need to comply with

While these are the basic steps you need to follow, there are also a few more detailed preparations you’ll have to make to make sure your drive-thru runs efficiently:

  • Hiring the Right Employees– You will need a couple of cooks, managers, and servers to manage your drive-thru efficiently. Make sure people you hire are really fast and accurate in their work.
  • Training– Running a drive-thru is different from running a restaurant. You’ll need to train your staff to handle the specific complications that arise during drive-thru operations. Also, you’ll have to put greater emphasis on speed and accuracy.
  • Equipment– Faster delivery of food is one of the main prerequisites of a drive-thru. Make sure you have the right kind of equipment to make this happen.
  • Space– Ideally, your drive-true should sit either in front of or beside your restaurant. Make sure the drive-thru line or signs are in view from the road and that you still have ample parking space for dine-in customers.

Weigh Your Options Before Making Your Decision

Although opening a drive-thru might seem like a small venture, investing in a drive-thru could significantly boost sales, or deter customers if not run efficiently. Consult a professional, discuss your requirements and goals, and weigh all the pros and cons before finalizing your decision.