How to Start a Thriving Drive-Thru Coffee Shop

How to Start a Thriving Drive-Thru Coffee Shop

Have you opened or are you considering opening a drive-thru coffee shop? Drive-thru coffee is often seen as a surefire way to make money. Who doesn’t love fast and convenient coffee, right?

While owning a drive-thru coffee shop can be profitable, there are some lesser-known secrets to running a successful coffee business. If you want to retire instead of running your business for the rest of your life, you’ll need some power tips to match the legendary status of Dutch Bros. Coffee.

Whether you’re buying a franchise or starting from scratch, a solid business plan and these tips will give you a competitive edge. For more detailed information on starting a coffee shop, check out the coffee shop and cafe business startup guide.

I have over fifteen years of experience working in, supervising, and managing drive-thru coffee shops. I’ve seen great success in some shops and failures in others. The key is understanding what drives success beyond just the menu items and fancy drinks—it’s all about how you run your store.

1. Control your inventory tightly

There’s a difference between tracking and controlling inventory. Tracking inventory involves counting products regularly to calculate costs and place orders. Controlling inventory means managing how products are used to prevent waste.

Waste is a major source of lost income for drive-thru coffee shops. Many shop owners don’t realize how much waste they have until they see it accumulate. Small amounts of waste add up and can cost thousands of dollars each month.

An effective way to control waste is through proper training. Training employees to pour perfect portions can reduce milk waste by three gallons or more per day. Training them on proper dosing and extracting can save up to 40 shots of espresso per day.

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2. Serve only food that doesn’t need preparation or heating

Preparing and heating food takes time and slows down service. Your goal in a drive-thru coffee shop is to provide fast and efficient service. Serving food that requires utensils is also not eco-friendly and can lead to customer dissatisfaction when utensils run out.

Instead, offer a small selection of pastries and dry goods that can be quickly placed in a bag with a napkin and a wet wipe.

3. Have a greeter to keep customers from driving away

During busy times, customers may drive away if they perceive a long wait. Having a dedicated "greeter" positioned outside can take orders and give customers the impression that they’re being taken care of. This reduces the perceived wait time and encourages customers to stay in line.

4. Have a dedicated barista in addition to window staff

Staffing one person at the window only slows down service. To provide quick transactions, it’s essential to have a dedicated barista, window staff, and a greeter. This allows the drinks to be made before the customer reaches the window.

5. Invest in proper barista training

To train your staff effectively, schedule dedicated training shifts where you can focus solely on training without interruptions. This type of hands-on training is more effective than trying to teach them during customer orders.

Following a systematic training protocol, starting with hot drinks and gradually building up to more complex recipes, will result in confident baristas in less than a week.

Investing in proper training may cost more but will yield better results.

In conclusion, owning a drive-thru coffee shop can be profitable if done right. By following these tips, you’ll be ahead of the competition and provide excellent service.

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