Delivering Exceptional Service in the Drive-Thru

Mar 15, 2021

By Mike Walls

Your key areas of focus should be:

  • Order accuracy
  • Speed of service
  • Friendliness during the brief connection
  • Preparedness
  • A high-quality, consistent product

Order Accuracy

Accuracy is critical in takeout, drive-thru, and delivery orders. Ideally, the order should be taken directly into the POS system and entered immediately. Be sure to provide the total right away to prompt the guest to have payment ready at the window. Always double-check orders for accuracy while packaging the order using the receipt and then triple-check by listing the items in the bag as the order is delivered to the guest.


Make sure to follow a routine that provides guests with a consistent experience while ordering at the window and preparing the orders. Interactions should be short during peak hours to increase throughput, so be sure to build your systems, routines, and habits for optimum speed and accuracy. Your physical space must also be designed to flow towards the pick-up window with no wasted movements or fetching. You want the cooks or barista’s hands to be in action, not their feet, whenever possible so they can focus on preparing an item or component, sending it in the right direction, and beginning the next one right away. Can you change your line’s layout to prevent unnecessary movement by placing everything for each order within arm’s reach?


How can you express hospitality during a 30-second interaction? The best way is to smile and sincerely thank everyone while inviting guests to come back again soon. A smile should be part of the uniform.


Take care of non-customer-related tasks in off-hours only. You don’t want to be rushing to take out the trash, manage breaks, or stock supplies during a rush. Know your rush times and be ready for them by using a checklist with time constraints that indicate a set of tasks that must be finished before a particular time. Be proactive and set yourself and your team up for success.


Ensure you’re delivering a high-quality experience

A High-Quality, Consistent Experience

Everything must come together to provide a high-quality experience. Keep hot food hot under a heat lamp and cold items cold away from the heat. Bag hot and cold items separately. Ensure packaging does not ruin the product by allowing it to cool too quickly or to steam and become soggy. What items can you pre-package or bundle that won’t affect quality? Can tasks be shared differently to increase efficiency? Is the menu board, exterior entry zone, order zone, wait zone, pay/pick-up zone, exit zone, and parking lot as clean and welcoming as the restaurant’s interior?

Analyze and continuously improve in these areas, and you’ll turn guests into raving fans and regulars!