Drive-thru lines are now a public menace. From blocking traffic to inciting altercations, wait times have clearly been growing out of hand.

How did we get to this point? Earlier in the year, we would have blamed the pandemic. It led more people to seek safer dining options such as takeout. Now, the labor shortage is the new crisis that might be here to stay.

As of last month, restaurant employment is still 12% below pre-pandemic levels. And according to economists, those staff may never return to the restaurant industry. More and more people are choosing to pursue their careers in other segments of the gig economy.


This puts hiring out of the picture as an effective solution. Fortunately, there are other advanced solutions that operators can adopt to speed up lines, even if employment levels don’t recover soon.

Collect real-time data of your drive-thru operations.

Leading quick-service restaurants (QSRs) have been measuring drive-thru wait times for years. But how many are using the numbers to improve operations in real time? Real-time data collection enables you to catch bottlenecks before they start impacting your sales.

You don’t have to deploy someone with a people counter around the clock. Using a few well-placed cameras, a computer vision system can collect data on wait times, drop-out rates, kitchen pipeline, and more.


Get help from AI to convert data into actionable insights.

A computer vision system can do more than just capture data. It consists of a few cameras that are tied to a proprietary AI system. This AI system can convert drive-thru data into actionable insights immediately.

Here’s an example that illustrates how computer vision works. A restaurant has deployed computer vision in the drive-thru and kitchen. The system in the drive-thru detects that the last 5 guests have all ordered fries. At the same time, the system in the kitchen spots that fries are running low. It instantly alerts a staff member to prepare more fries. The restaurant successfully circumvents a backlog that would have happened if it ran out of fries.

Automation, automation, automation.

Back in the day, everyone worried about robots taking over their jobs. The tables have now turned. With no end to the labor shortage in sight, companies need to optimize staffing by automating routine tasks.


There are a range of automation technologies that can add value to your operations based on your business needs:

  • Voice Ordering: Dealing with costly order entry mistakes? An AI voice assistant can take orders from guests and automatically transmit them to your POS system. It never forgets to upsell and can even promote items with short preparation times when lines are long.
  • Digital Menu Boards: Are guests taking a long time to order? Help them out by installing a digital menu board before the order window. It can automatically update to show popular meal combinations of the day while hiding unavailable items.
  • Real-Time Demand Forecasting: Is the kitchen pipeline slowing down your drive-thru? An AI system first uses guest traffic data to predict demand for certain menu items. It then monitors kitchen inventory levels and alerts staff to prepare more food as needed.

So when will drive-thru wait times stop increasing?

The drive-thru will continue to be popular even after guests return to dining in. The ongoing labor shortage makes it clear that staffing can always be unstable. If operators don’t do something about the long lines now, they’ll continue to miss on sales and rack up on poor guest impressions.

The problem is huge but not insurmountable. Presto offers enterprise-grade touch, vision, and voice technologies that help increase throughput and improve guest loyalty. They have been proven to significantly decrease drive-thru wait times in real-world applications. Consult us today on the best solution for your concept.

About Presto

Presto overlays next-gen digital solutions onto the physical world. Our enterprise-grade touch, vision, and voice technologies help hospitality businesses thrive while delighting guests. With over 100 million guests using Presto each month and 300,000 systems shipped, we are one of the largest technology providers in the industry.

Founded at M.I.T. in 2008, Presto is headquartered in Silicon Valley, Calif. with customers including top 20 hospitality chains such as Applebee’s, Aramark, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Denny’s, and Outback Steakhouse.