Is your Drive-Thru leaking FREE Prime Rib-Eye Steak? Probably!

Have you ever used a Fast/Quick Serve restaurant Drive-Thru, ordered something very simple, and only after you have driven away discover that your order was lacking.

I am not talking about “you placed a large order for 2-4 people” and “you were shorted” a small order of fries or you received the wrong sandwich. This stuff happens; fortunately or hopefully not very often, (I think!). I am not talking about stuff like that.


I am talking about the little stuff that happens during every single drive-thru transaction, all the time, every day. Such as, you did not receive any napkins and you were going to eat in your car, (which is why you used the Drive-Thru to begin with). Or, you wanted a straw with your large soft drink but instead received none with the drink or in the bag with the food. Driving a car while holding a large soft drink without a straw, and trying to drink, is tough to do, plus it is probably as dangerous as texting.

What I am talking about is the little things such as Splenda, cream, sugar, salt, pepper, appropriate sauces, napkins, straws, spoons, forks and knives. We are talking about the little stuff that when it is missed not only alienates most customers, but we also strongly suspect, it is costing restaurant operators a ton of money. Today’s price for a 2.2 lb. box of Splenda at Sam’s Club costs $20.88. This computes to $9.49 per pound of Splenda. Costco is currently selling Prime USDA Rib-eye steak for $8.99 per pound. Splenda is flipping expensive.

Andrew Simmons is a marketing researcher for restaurants. He assists companies in marketing efforts as well as educating them about the best pizza pos system  pizza shop owners will find in the industry. He has also worked previously as shopper with a Mystery Shopping & Marketing Research company, says he was afforded the opportunity to visit many restaurant locations each month. Every once in a while an incident occured which drove him crazy and just begged to be scrutinized. This happened to him as he was proceeding through a drive-thru of a national restaurant chain.

I had ordered a simple sandwich and a medium coffee with cream and Splenda. No employee during the ordering process or at the Drive-Thru window ever asked me how many Splenda or creams I wanted.

When I received my food I discovered (6) Splenda packets, (5) Cream packets and zero stirring devices. I would have been happy with (2) Splenda packets and (2) Cream packets and some type of stirring device that would have enabled me not to think of using my pen.

To be perfectly candidly, I really would have preferred the attendant, who was assembling my order, would also put and stir my requested condiments into my coffee so I would not have to bother with the Splenda and crème packets. Plus they save the spoon.

Bypassing the annoyance of not having anything to stir the ample quantity of condiments I received into my coffee, I was left to wonder, “how many dollars are wasted each year by Drive-Thru attendants at restaurant chains who just grab a handful of stuff and throw it into each bag?”.

So we decided to do a quick survey to see what we could discover “regarding coffee”. After all, Splenda cost more than Rib-Eye steak.

We decided to do a survey and created a simple questionnaire focusing on a medium size cup of coffee ordered from a Drive–thru at any national or regional restaurant brand location.

We currently have active shoppers numbering well into 6 figures in our database. We utilized this group of people and broadcasted a request for each shopper to go to a large national or regional restaurant chain in their geographic area within the next week, and to please do this as a FREEBIE.

We asked them to please order a medium coffee with the condiments they would usually request, (cream, sugar, Splenda, etc.), but do not request specific quantities.

Additionally, the Shoppers if they wished could also order other items with their coffee such as a sandwich. We wanted this to appear as just any normal everyday customer transaction.

We had 1128 people respond and preform the survey. Not bad considering they were doing this for FREE.

The following were the questions and answers, plus we allowed adequate free-form feedback because we wanted to get a very good interpretation as to what was really happening:

Q & A

Question 1:

At the Drive –Thru, when you ordered your medium sized coffee with condiments, did the attendant ask how many of each condiment you wanted?

Answer: Of 1128 respondents, 902 said that they were not asked how many condiments were desired. That is almost 80%. Additionally, when the attendant repeated the order at the Drive-Thru speaker, the condiment request was not repeated almost 70 % of the time. Ex; I ordered a cheeseburger with a medium coffee with cream and sugar. The attendant would repeat “ a cheeseburger and coffee”.

Question 2:

If you were not asked quantity of condiments when ordering, did the pick-up window attendant ask you how many of each condiment you desired?

Answer: Of the 902 customers not asked how many condiments were wanted when ordering their cup of coffee, 844 were not asked about the number of condiments at the pickup window. That is almost 94%

Question 3:

If you were not asked about number of condiments when initialing ordering or at the pick-up window, did you receive the right amount of condiments; too much or too little?

Answer: Of the 844 who were not asked the number of condiments while ordering or at the pick-up window;

  • 66% received too many condiments
  • 11% received the right amount
  • 19% received too little
  • 4% did not receive any condiments
  • P.S. 22 people did not receive stirring tools

Question 4:

Of the 284 respondents who were asked the number of condiments they desired, how many received the proper amount?


  • 201 respondents received the proper amount of condiments but 7 of these did not receive stirrers.
  • 55 respondents received more than they asked for
  • 26 respondents received less than they requested
  • 2 respondents did not receive any condiments but one of these did receive a spoon.

The Operator of a Restaurant Chain that utilizes a Drive-Thru concept has to be wondering,

  • “What impact does waste and mistakes at the Drive-Thru have on sustainable business and customer satisfaction?”
  • “How much is it costing our company?”

Now might be the time to review your Drive-Thru operations.

Do the research and determine what your customers really value for your marketing strategy and deliver it to them consistently.

Over-delivering gains you NOTHING, under-delivering costs you customer satisfaction, and all of it costs you money, (a ton).

Would you like some Rib-Eye steak with your coffee?


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