Drive-thru IoT concept - Connected Corners

How an IoT button could enhance drive-thru CX for QSR brands (Part 1)

This topic briefly explores the how Internet of Things (IoT) powered solutions (such as IoT buttons) could help enhance the drive-thru customer experience (CX) for a variety of brands within the QSR industry

This topic briefly explores the how Internet of Things (IoT) powered solutions (such as IoT buttons) could help enhance the drive-thru customer experience (CX) for a variety of brands within the QSR industry

Smartphones & a variety of emerging technologies have already been influencing almost every facet of the traditional QSR customer journey (fast food customer experience)

…from an app based ordering platform through to geofence based marketing campaigns & coupons and even smart fryers; the broader QSR industry is hard at infusing connectivity & digital technologies across every aspect of it’s restaurant sales & operational workflow in a bid to enhance their overall value proposition & CX

Quick Note: Despite certain similarities inherent to the broader industry; each QSR business is unique; defined by a multitude of factors (geography of operation, food/drinks menu diversity, technological capabilities, industry partnerships, et al.) and as such would have distinct goals in building related digital & IoT solutions that aptly supports their individual long term operational, ROI & CX goals

Key challenge… drive-thru service/wait times getting longer

Like clockwork; every mornings, afternoons & even evenings we notice the long snaking lines around a myriad of fast food restaurants…

…whether be it a bitter cold snowy Chicago morning, torrential downpour, screaming kids in the backseat, running late for a 8am meeting or just feeling just plain lazy out of the ordinary; many folk’s daily lifestyle depend on…

…the humble drive-thru which; depending on the brand, is said to contribute up to an average 65% of total daily sales of a typical QSR brand / fast food restaurant’s business

But lately, the multitude of QSR brands are seeing longer drive-thru service times (read: wait times) experienced by their customers; particularly during rush hours

According to a recent annual study conducted by QSR Magazine; the average drive-thru service times have jumped to ~255 secs (~4.25 mins); representing a ~20 sec slow down from just a year ago

Ironic doesn’t it?… aside from the convenience of picking up food & beverage from the comfort of one’s car seat; another key value proposition of the drive-thru model was also meant to save time (at least compared to the conventional in-store model)

…and to test this; I myself tried out a few drive-thru visits (combination of fast food brands, neighborhoods & peak/off-peak periods) scoring a little over 4.5 mins per trip

Drive-thru process… more of the same

Whilst there is no doubt that brands have been making significant investments in a combination of process improvements, JIT food preparation & even infusion of various digital technologies

…but as far as the end consumer is concerned; not much seems to have changed when it comes to the overall process in visiting a drive-thru… which typically entails

Entering drive-thru lane → waiting inching forward slowly… waitingscanning menu board (for any last minute changes)placing order through the voice box → waiting crawling to delivery window… waitingpaying (or fumbling with change if cash) + collecting food/drink → driving away

Sure, the service & wait times do depend on a range of variables such as time of the day (peak / off-peak), store location (inner city, suburbia), promotional offers, seasonal variations and more…

…but seeking to implement unique process improvement initiatives that reduce these unusually long service/wait times whilst ensuring highest quality of customer service (& food) still remains one of the key underlying challenges for QSR brands…

…particularly as the ongoing pandemic is only sending more people through the fast food takeout lanes further exacerbating the service & wait times for many stores

Exploring undiscovered sales opportunities

The aforementioned challenge aside; implementing innovative technology backed process improvement initiatives as part of a more cohesive sales & operations strategy could also help QSR brands uncover undiscovered sales opportunities

For the most part a visit to the drive thru may either be pre-planned and/or perhaps to satisfy that on-the-spot craving for that burger, frappe or fried food (think: passive sales & revenue)… either ways the ‘intent of visit’ is mostly consumer driven

Sure, coupons, in-App gamification & other such marketing promotions may to a certain extent help drive car traffic through their stores… but the big question is…

…what are some other ways brands could give consumers a reason to visit their drive-thru (& make a purchase); particularly when they are in the process of ‘driving’ from point A → B?

…and going one step further… how else could QSR brands aptly distribute the flow of car traffic (think: active sales & revenue) through their drive-thru lanes at all times (peak & off peak)… i.e to make the ‘intent of visit’ more brand driven

Enter IoT powered drive-thru solution

Connected IoT devices, cloud & other digital technologies have already been helping a multitude of business across a range of B2C service industries simplify their operations whilst adding value in the process…

…variations thereof that could be ported over to the QSR industry and specifically developed to optimize the drive-thru sales & operations function

Exploring a drive-thru scenario with IoT buttons

Imagine an IoT button – kind of more modern interpretation of Amazon dash ones from yesteryear (think: eSIM enabled) – that can be affixed on their car dashboard, windscreen or any other easily reachable place…

…and with a mere push of a button consumers would be able to place an order for their preferred meal/beverage… with none of the distractions or hazards associated with operating a smartphone

Drive-thru order process - current vs. IoT - Connected Corners

Potential benefits

Amongst other benefits, the core value proposition of such an IoT button would lie in its simplicity to use; particularly when in motion as well as potentially skipping the long queues at the drive-thru

An IoT button could (if done right) help consumers bypass the drive-thru period and most importantly… help improve the overall QSR customer journey & CX… by potentially allowing users to pick up their preorder even before entering the traditional drive-thru line (think: dedicated order pick-up lane / checkout counters)

A physical IoT button should also be relatively simple to use whilst in motion (no different to pushing a radio / AC button today); with virtually no distraction – at least when compared fumbling with apps.. or arguably even voice assistants – although most likely the solution would require a companion app to integrate other features such as order customizations, loyalty, et. al.

This IoT button could also have the potential to increase the frequency of casual ordering… triggered with the help of geo-fencing technologies as well as contextual Ads, promotion & offers… and at all times!

QSR brands could have an opportunity to push up-sell and cross-sell offers (think: meal upsize, add-ons, extra drink for a $1) once the user has pushed their pre-selected order and en-route to pickup their order

The IoT button could also (with the user’s permission) allow the QSR brand to learn more about their customers, their order behavior, routine, route patterns and more…

…that in turn could not only help design relevant personalized offers delivered at the right time but also help promote repeat visits, up-sell and x-sells (read: unlock new sales & revenue potential)


At the very least IoT solutions can be designed to help QSR brands not only optimize their existing drive-thru model but also unlock previously undiscovered sales opportunities

…and a physical IoT button type of solution has the potential to translate a complex ordering process down to just a simple click (simplicity) whilst allowing the customer to bypass long drive-thru queues (save time) and even offer personalized offers that are more relevant to them (customer engagement)

But this is just the beginning; as the IoT button solution opens up a whole new world of unique revenue, operations, CX & partnership opportunities (think: partnering with automakers to embed their IoT button solution) for the QSR brand…

…with forthcoming segments aiming to cover the IoT based drive-thru solution’s user interface (UI) & experience (UX), process overview (order confirmation, rejection & up-sell), key challenges and partnership opportunities in more detail

Stay tuned!