Pizza Drive Thru

Who has a drive thru?

  1. How is working for you?
  2. What were the biggest issues you faced when you opened?
  3. Did you have to scale down your menu?
  4. Did it significantly increase your sales or simply cannibalize existing dine in/pick up sales?
  5. How did it effect your ticket average?
  6. Any customer complaints? About wait times for instance?
    Any and all comments would be appreciated.

Hi there,
Even though I can’t answer your questions specifically, I have 3 customers with drive thru.
2 pizza shops and 1 bbq place.
All I know is that about 80% (if not more), of their drive thru orders are pickup (phone orders). It works pretty well for them and they all seem happy with it.

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Curious how pizza drive thrus work exactly, I don’t know of any here in CA. Is it only for customers who order ahead? Seems like the line would get backed up pretty quickly if you have customers ordering at the window and waiting.

Our situation is different because we serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. We are about ready to open our drive thru and will probably not have pizza pick up at the window. Breaking new ground, there will be mistakes and adjustments. We do want to serve slices from the drive thru in addition to our scaled down drive thru menu.
I have not researched pizza drive thrus in California but that will be coming up. I talked with someone who owns two Little Caesars locations in the LA area. They installed a drive thru (maybe two) and are quite happy with the results. But the dynamics are different with Little Caesars obviously with their “Hot n” Ready" or whatever they call it. I guess their customers would order and get their pizzas immediately. I did research drive thru restaurants in Phoenix and Houston and even called some just to get a sense of the operations and results. I targeted only unusual and mostly one off concepts. There is a restaurant in Phoenix called Federal Pizza. It is a high end restaurant serving wood fired pizzas and other entrees. They appear to be very successful. They are in an old converted bank building. Looks to be a first class operation.
The thing that has concerned me the most is the almost inevitable longer wait time. We have a large menu over three meal periods. It is not going to be fast food speed by a long shot. The only other restaurant whose menu remotely compares with ours is Moe’s Southwest. I called many of their drive thru locations around the country and talked with whoever would talk to me. Definitely longer wait times but surprisingly few complaints. I guess people are happy sitting in their cars doing their thing on their cell phones.
There were a couple of particularly interesting drive thus in Phoenix I called. I was interested in how operators would deal with timing as in your pizza (or any other food type) order. Difficult to mix the somewhat unpredictable times for pizza with other food that can come out quickly. Both of the places I called had an area where customers could wait in their cars but out of the regular drive thru lane. When their food was ready an employee would run it out to them. In reading reviews of these restaurants there were virtually no complaints about having to wait off to the side. One other factor I think contributed to the customer satisfaction with this approach. There were many reviews about the nice and considerate employees.
Buy the way, I found several pizza drive thrus in the mid west. Maybe the weather is a factor here. Snow, hurricanes, tornados, heavy rain. Probably any kind of menu would work for a drive thru in those conditions. One thing is very clear…there are a lot of people out there now who simply do not want to get out of their cars to get their food. It has definitely created more acceptability of longer wait times. Maybe not for the traditional fast food guys but definitely for the rest of us.

I know Mcallister’s Deli has a drive thru that you must pre-order your food before going into the drive thru.

We have a drive-thru for online/phone pick up orders. Our customers love the convenience. We rarely have customers actually place an order at the window, though.

We are similar. We occasionally have customers order at the pickup window. We instruct them to pull ahead if someone comes up behind them to pickup an order so they do not hold up the line. We also have customers place ice cream orders at the drive thru, which usually takes a few minutes to make and then bring over. Haven’t looked at the numbers to see what the ratio is of pickups coming to the drive thru vs the lobby. Probably about 50/50 I would guess.

  1. I have had a drive thru since 1992. We had a que line of 3 cars to begin with and in 2007 we expanded the que line to 5-6 cars by moving our order sign. the window works great for boxes up to 18" wide.
  2. Getting customers to realize we are not fast food.
  3. No, we have expanded our menu to more than triple since.
  4. We doubled our sales within two years and have been growing at a 10-15% pace each year. We started opening for lunch in 2002. Most drive thru orders are not call-in.
  5. Ticket prices went down. We serve a lot of customers at lunch through the drive thru. They are usually small orders.
  6. Yes, we have adopted a policy of “If the order will be more than 5 minutes, make them pay and pull into a parking space so we can keep the line moving”.

Our pizzeria was the first drive thru in this area, possibly in this state. We installed a full size food warmer to keep our most popular menu items in so we can have them ready to go. Our oven takes 7 minutes to bake a pizza or Stromboli. Fryer is about 3-7 minutes for fries and wings. We have subs, salads, and various unique desserts and appetizers. Our entire menu is available thru our drive thruClaysburg Pizza.JPG

I have one and 99% of it is used for pick up orders. I do have a few people that come thru order and come back 20 minutes later for pick up but most of them are call in orders that they are picking up.

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