Chet Skwarcan is an award-winning engineer, writer, and industry innovator in the field of traffic engineering. He is known for leveraging his creativity, logic, and technology to solve today’s engineering challenges.

Drive-Through Lines are Longer

COVID By-Products

Have you noticed how congested restaurant drive-throughs have become? In fact, if you rearrange the letters in the phrase: traffic congestion, you’ll get caffeinic nog-trots. And if you order this at a coffee shop, you will indeed get, caffeinic nog-trots. So don’t do it — don’t even think about it.

Restaurants are relying more and more on their drive-through capacity. And with restricted inside seating, even multiple drive-through lanes are often inadequate. From a traffic engineering perspective, including over 750 years of experience (that’s a typo), I offer the following advice to restaurants interested in maintaining traffic flow while simultaneously (and occasionally) properly fulfilling customer orders:

●      Make certain your digital app is painless and includes all the latest enhancements — predictive ordering, arrival time, lightning deals, voice recognition, GPS (i.e., proximity alerts for impulsive eaters), mobile wallets, and of course, motion-activated.

●      Curbside pickup options to relieve the drive-through congestion — the longer the drive-through gets, the less likely a customer is to pull in.

●      And for brand new restaurant locations, consider a smaller building with more space allocated for drive-through lanes, curbside pickup, and walk-up windows (remember those?).  And if a smaller building poses a problem, consider a second story to accommodate inside seating requirements.

●      Add a temporary auxiliary location across the street or in a nearby parking lot for peak time periods (food truck? food tent? limited menu?).

●      Assign a human being out there taking orders, walking through that line of cars — this dramatically increases the throughput at a drive-through.

●      Multiple menu boards prevent bottlenecks.

●      And don’t overlook what’s happening inside your restaurant — reducing time here can have a major impact on keeping the drive-through moving forward.

And because “normal” no longer exists, stay nimble and modular in your approach to solving this problem. Some solutions are temporary, others may be a long-term strategy. Drive-throughs are popular now but this may only be a temporary phenomenon. The smartest option is likely a multi-faceted model that includes drive-throughs, curbside, and home delivery, with the mobile device being central to how guests interact. And please remove caffeinic nog-trots from your menu — nobody ever orders those twice.

Chet Skwarcan (traffic engineer, author, unique insights) with over 25 years of traffic engineering experience — online ideas available at or