Five Key Considerations To Executing The Perfect Drive Thru Design
Image: Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock.com
A 2014 report on Canadian Quick Service Restaurants revealed that 75% of Quick service Restaurants (QSR) offered drive-thru service.* Seventy-five percent! If you’ll pardon the pun, it’s all driven by the needs of a society that is constantly on the go— rushing to work, children’s soccer practices and birthday parties, or to family and social gatherings.
As a result, the ability to offer convenient drive-thru service is becoming a make-or-break proposition for QSRs. Which is why it’s crucial that the restaurant site is professionally designed by a firm with expertise and experience in this area.
You may also want to check out our previous blog post on Layout Planning Matters: 4 Key Design Practices for Quick Serve Restaurants.
Through proper planning, needs and challenges can accurately be anticipated in advance. Put your drive-thru in the fast lane to success with these five key considerations to building the perfect drive-thru design:
Step 1: It All Begins With a Needs Assessment
Before you even begin to develop a site plan, it is important to have a firm grasp on projected traffic volumes and expected sales. Consultants such as Site-Check Research Group Research Group can provide you with accurate sales projections based on current and future needs. Armed with this information, your design partner can start planning from an informed position.
Step 2: The Size and Configuration of Your Lot Determines Design & Layout
The size and configuration of your site will largely dictate the layout and the design of your drive-thru. Your design firm will help you determine what is possible based on a number of factors, including:
- The size and shape of your lot
- Street access—entrance and exit points
- Safe onsite traffic flow
- Overflow areas for queuing
- Parking stall requirements
- Integration with other onsite services (e.g. gas bar or car wash)
- Visibility from street traffic
Municipal guidelines will play a significant role in determining what is and isn’t possible, as regulations involving setbacks, parking, landscaping requirements, as well as fire, traffic and pedestrian safety come into play. Your design firm must have a thorough understanding of all applicable code and regulations associated with a drive-thru.
Step 3: Traffic Modelling Software – The Designer’s Secret Weapon
Any good design firm that specializes in drive-thru layout and design will insist on using advanced CAD-based traffic modelling software as part of its design and planning process (such as AutoTURN). This amazing technology takes the guesswork out of site layout, and helps you plan for worst case scenarios to ensure your drive-thru is built right.
The design firm will run its proposed site plan through the software. An on-screen display will actually show how various types and sizes of vehicles will maneuver through the site. It will help identify:
- Optimal layout to ensure fast, safe, and efficient service
- Length of queuing lanes based on average wait times
- Potential queuing problems and bottlenecks
- High risk accident points
- Ability of vehicles to maneuver around the site
- Interaction of all onsite vehicles to ensure smooth traffic circulation
The AutoTURN system is programmed with over 800 vehicle types and models in its database. This allows the design firm to see if a large truck such as a Ford F-250 can safely negotiate your drive-thru without hopping a curb. It can even account for vehicles hauling trailers.
Step 4: Safety is Your Number One Priority.
Sales takes a back seat to safety when designing a drive-thru. If your customers feel unsafe—whether they are in their vehicle or on foot—they will simply stop frequenting your business.
Entranceways and pedestrian crosswalks must be carefully planned as not to intersect the drive-thru lanes. Bollards and curbs should be strategically placed to protect your building, menu boards and landscape features from damage.
Smart design will go a long way to preventing accidents, whereas, bad design can cause frustration and lead to impatient, unpredictable drivers. We’ve seen some frightening examples where turns that are too tight would force large trucks or vehicles to drive up on curbs, or back up to clear a corner only to result in fender benders.
Step 5: Don’t Forget Landscaping.
Landscape planning is an important part of any site design. Placement of shrubs and trees isn’t merely for ornamental purposes. Often it is done to create natural barriers for the benefit of neighbours, as foliage can provide an aesthetic visual screen, as well as help absorb traffic noise. Don’t forget too that a well placed garbage bins will help keep your site tidy and clean.
Designing a safe and efficient drive-thru can be tricky, so make sure your design firm is up to the challenge.