Study Shows Customers Want More Technologically Advanced Drive-Thrus

Like many industries, food and restaurant dining got a rushed makeover during the worldwide pandemic. From online ordering to curbside pickup, grocery stores rose to the challenge of vastly increased demand. Traditional dine-in restaurants transformed kitchens for app based delivery and pickup meals, even from famous chefs. But what about preexisting drive-thru food service?

Based on recent surveys, nobody loved those squawking boxes and long lines before the pandemic — and they sure don't appreciate them now. Technology has entered the gastronomy conversation in a big way, and that's unlikely to change, according to a Presto Pulse of the Industry study revealed by Business Wire. The Presto survey targeted customer perceptions of automation technology pertaining to restaurants, service quality, and emerging trends. But it's only the beginning, according to QSR magazine, which reports that Presto Pulse will continue the surveys every six months to identify technology growth and changes in customer sentiment.

Current survey respondents did not go easy on drive-thru service at fast food chains. Even while highlighting a significant and potentially permanent shift away from indoor restaurant dining, they want way more from the alternative. That apparently means an intense focus on food related technology in the drive-thru experience.

Technology fuels future of drive-thrus

Presto, an industry leader in culinary hospitality technology, conducted the recent study with input from 243 restaurant customers in various U.S. regions. Surveyors balanced representation across economic, lifecycle, and social demographics, explains QSR. A remarkable 77% of survey respondents felt that drive-thru service in 2022 has not improved since 2021, and 27% say that long wait times have gotten worse, per Business Wire. Even more striking is the consensus on how to solve those problems.

A full 78% of surveyed customers say that automation technology provides the answer. They feel it's crucial for improved operations at fast food restaurants, making the experience more efficient and enjoyable, and potentially resulting in lower menu prices. Respondents pinpoint needs for automated ordering, quicker payment methods, and designated lanes for advance online orders, according to Business Wire. These technology solutions, to date, come in the form of A.I. voice assistants, smartphone or smartwatch apps, and personalized customer menus.

This isn't the first industry swing at improving outdated fast food methodologies. Back in February 2021, Restaurant Business noted that industry giants such as Dunkin' were exploring A.I. to power ordering boards at drive-thrus. Testing included mobile app geolocation technology that recognizes customer loyalty, greets people by name, and displays previous ordering patterns. Today revealed in April 2022 that Bite Ninja has developed a tool to address the dilemma of finding workers for low paying fast food jobs — employees can take orders from anywhere, removing the need to be physically onsite.