Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.
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.
"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."
"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.