Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Drivethru- bane or boon?

There are a lot of people who don't want to go inside a business to get what they want.  This is for them.

Investors- In a good QSR, the revenue periods are everything.  People eat at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  No marketing program has effectively changed that.  So what you have at those times is a high demand for food.  Assume any QSR has a constraint at the point of food delivery- the cash register. Assume there is excess capacity in production.  Assume any QSR  has already installed all the registers it can hold.  Assume customers limit transaction time to no less than 60 to 90 seconds- it is hard to make em mooove faster, damn it!  Now, if only we could get people to just come to a window in the wall and get food there, wouldn't that be something?  We could increase transactions by a significant factor by adding a register, without the capital investment of making the building bigger.  Good stuff!

Customers- People want to stay in the car, not go inside.  They would rather wait in their own environment, continue listening to the radio, putting on makeup, tweeting, whatever.  Customers also think it is faster, and whether it is or not, the perception matters.  Making customers happy is what makes business thrive.  Until the things they want are not consistent with the core benefit that drew them to your concept.  Did you start a place for local discourse and entertainment?  Probably not drive thru compatible, even if people say they want to get your crepe faster and easier, from the car.

Image- nothing says QSR chain like a D/T. In fact, we used it as a key part of brand identity.  If you are a QSR chain, and don't have a drive thru, you are weird.

Public Perception- I have linked to a study commissioned in Canada by Tim Horton's.  It is favorable to drive thrus, as you would think.  Its logic is that the emissions from restarting cooled engines in a parking lot is greater than from those idling in the drive thru.  Believable.  But of course I added a link to a blog that refutes all that, and as an added bonus uses the word "Piffle".  No arguing with that, nor with the accepted greenie logic condemning drive thrus.  So any company, say in the UK, wanting to develop this access channel better brace for some severe blow-back.  Goes back to image and concept doesn't it?

My View- If you want to be QSR, get a drive thru.  If you want to be a neighborhoody kinda place, avoid one.  If the bean counters have discovered you will sell more stuff with a drive thru, you are going to have them everywhere they will fit and are allowed.  The concept will be what it is, just get the incremental sales and let the next generation of management worry about how it all turns out.  After all, concepts are frangible, they have shorter and shorter half-lives, and once they are not intrinsically appealing, marketing will generate the traffic needed to keep it all going, for several years.  I call that renting customers.  They will be with you as long as the coupon is in the paper, or the ads are in the front of their mind.

I am completely drive-thru agnostic.  They are part of the restaurant environment, like bread.  They can be a good thing, or a bad thing.  Like any part of a concept, they telegraph information to customers, information that defines your business.  If you are the Chief Concept Officer, make sure you are using this important tool to work for you.  Consider it carefully.

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