Running a drive-thru coffee stand isn’t as easy as it looks. If you’ve purchased a franchise or have launched your own drive-thru coffee shop, you know it’s not an instant cash cow. The daily operations of a successful drive-thru look easy from the outside, but the inner workings consist of intricate systems that hold everything together.

If you own a struggling drive-thru coffee shop, don’t give up. Implementing the following systems will help your business thrive.

  1. A mobile point-of-sale system

If you’re going to revive a struggling business, you need a POS system that makes all of your staff mobile and produces quick transactions. A great POS for quick service in the food service industry is Truffle. The Truffle POS system makes it possible for you to send any one of your staff members out to greet cars in line, send the order back to the bar, and take payment before the customer gets to the window.

Getting a mobile POS system is just the first step. Once you have the foundation for fast service, you need additional supportive systems. The next system to implement is staffing for success.

  1. A sufficient staffing system

One of the main reasons drive-thru coffee shops fail is a lack of staff. It’s a cumulative, residual effect. When you don’t consistently have enough people on hand to take care of customers quickly, your sales will suffer and eventually, you’ll be out of business.

Most coffee shop owners staff one person at a time because they don’t see enough sales to justify a second or third person. This seems to make sense. Why staff more people if you’re not getting the business?

The truth is, a lack of business is more likely the result of not staffing enough people early on. Customers won’t tolerate slow service from a drive-thru. A customer will only wait in a long line a few times before going somewhere else. Over time, it looks like you’re losing business for some other reason, but it’s almost always the residual effect of not staffing enough people from the start.

You should always have at least two people staffed at all times for safety reasons alone. After your base of two people, you’ll want an additional 1-3 people based on your busiest times. For example, you might staff two people starting at 5am, have a third join at 6am, a fourth at 7am, and then cut back to two people at 1pm. 

Staff for the business you expect to generate from your marketing efforts rather than staffing according to current conditions. Be ready to handle the business, and the business will continue.

Having enough people staffed throughout the day is important, but you also need to assign people to specific positions to truly pick up speed. The whole idea is to generate speed because speedy service is what will get you more cars in line.

  1. Assign positions strategically

If you’re struggling, you probably don’t have a strict system for staff positions and tasks. Assigning positions is just one part of an effective business system that creates flow. Assigning staff members to specific positions will significantly increase your speed and therefore your sales. Speed is everything. 

Assign staff to specific positions that encompass specific tasks that don’t cross over. For example, you should only have one dedicated person working the espresso machine(s). Nobody else should be allowed to touch the machines because once your dedicated person gets in their flow, anyone getting in their space will slow them down. Once that person slows down, your whole operation backs up.

At minimum, you need:

  • 1 person that makes the drinks at the bar
  • 1 person per window
  • 1 person whose sole purpose is to greet cars in line 

It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two for each customer to receive their drink. If it takes longer than two minutes, you’ve got room for improvement. 

Even Dutch Bros—one of the most popular drive-thru coffee chains in America—is slow compared to Caffino. Caffino was one of the West Coast’s most popular drive-thru coffee chains in the 1990s and mid-2000s. Caffino delivered on their guarantee to get customers in and out in 60 seconds or less because of the way baristas were staffed in dedicated positions (among other proprietary systems).

Don’t be afraid to run a tight ship

At the end of the day, the only way your business will become profitable is if you run a tight ship. A successful drive-thru coffee business won’t come automatically—you’ve got to build it from scratch.