Trends in Drive Thru Menu Boards and Infrastructure

Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) have witnessed an unprecedented surge in demand for drive-thru services over the past few years, increasing the need for innovative solutions, practical infrastructure, and optimized signage.

The drive thru has been a staple of QRS for decades, and that is not going to change any time soon. While the general construction of these efficient establishments will likely remain recognizable, there are a number of trends relating to elements like drive thru menu boards and best practices that are sure to influence the drive thrus of the future.


A dual lane drive thru with illuminated menu boards.


Implementing Digital Drive Thru Menu Boards

Digital drive thru menu boards are a key feature of the modern drive thru, though many QSRs still utilize alternative models. Digital menus offer enhanced flexibility and adaptability that cannot be achieved with illuminated menu boards.

While an LED menu board might serve its purpose and inform drive thru customers of the options available, a digital menu board for your drive thru provides QSRs with the ability to adapt on the fly, changing their offerings as needed and even pushing additional advertisements to customers waiting to order.

Digital menu boards are also being used to accommodate mobile ordering and drive thru pick-up options, making them a productive element of the modern (and future) drive thru system.

Many QSR drive thrus have chosen to use a combination of digital menu boards and printed menus, granting them flexibility and clarity to adapt to the changing demands of their customers.

How Much Does a Digital Menu Board Cost?

The cost of a digital menu board will likely depend on a number of factors including:

  • Board dimensions
  • Type of board (such as promo or pre-sale)
  • The number of menus
  • Customizable properties

Get a Custom Quote for Your Drive Thru Needs


Four images of drive thru boards and screens. Two boards also feature awnings over the speaker for added driver coverage.


Benefits of Digital Drive Thru Menus

The integration of digital drive thru menus is a persistent trend that benefits QSRs as well as their customers.


Investing in a digital drive thru menu board means that you will never have to get new or custom menus printed. To maximize your ROI potential, choosing an easy-to-use software and trusted hardware can make your digital menu board effective, engaging, and profitable.

Day and Night Viewing

Designed to withstand weather and the tests of time, digital menu boards for drive thrus are built to last, and their visibility is a top priority for developers and manufacturers.

Digital menus are designed to offer easy day or night viewing, making them an attractive choice for any QSR in operation, rain or shine.


A hallmark of modern technology, digital drive thru menu boards offer the unique opportunity to display videos, gifs, and other animations, making them more engaging and attention-grabbing than traditional options.

Capitalizing on the convenient placement of drive thru menus to promote special sales, limited time offers, or new products can lead to an increase in sales and revenue, making digital menus a worthwhile investment.

Easy to Update

Printed menus are effective at presenting information that rarely changes, but digital menus allow QSRs to make easy updates and changes as needed without any extra costs or resources.

With a digital drive thru menu board, you can quickly and easily make changes to your displays, including:

  • Price differences
  • Item availability
  • Promotion shifts
  • Error corrections

Safe and Convenient

By prioritizing high visibility and clarity, digital menu boards in your drive thru lane ensures that customers can see where they are going and can more easily access the products you offer.

Digital drive thru menus make it easier for customers to navigate your drive thru and decide on their order before they even reach the speaker.


Regardless of the scale of your restaurant, the scope of your menu, the size of your drive thru, and the specific needs you have, a digital drive thru menu board can serve you well by offering customizable, innovative technology to provide an exceptional customer experience.

Enhance Your Customers’ Drive Thru Experience


Three types of drive thru signage including single panel, double panel, and triple panel varieties.


Connecting With Customers Using Your Outdoor Menu Board

Today’s customers desire more from their drive thru experience than quick service.

Building relationships, cultivating trust, and creating an engaging environment are all expected of the modern drive thru experience. By following relevant drive thru trends and increasing the effectiveness of your outdoor menu board, you can connect with your customers and give them the satisfying experience they crave.

Customer Recognition Through Digital Signage

With digital menu boards, your QSR can engage your customers even before they interact with any employees. Customers can be given the opportunity to identify themselves when they order, facilitating increased usage of a restaurant’s loyalty program and a smoother interaction overall.

When it comes to mobile ordering, customers may also be presented digital check-in screens that allow them to more efficiently proceed to the pick-up window for their order.

By increasing the opportunities for customer recognition through digital screens, QSRs can make the drive thru process more efficient and satisfying.

Bolster Your Brand’s Image

With digital drive thru menus, you grant yourself the ability to improve your brand’s image, attracting new customers, appealing to repeat customers, and providing an engaging, exciting drive thru experience.

Customers are more easily influenced by digital signage because they are inherently engaging and attractive. By utilizing this technology, you can promote what your brand has to offer in colorful and enticing ways, demonstrating your brand’s commitment to modernization and the customer experience.

Increase Service Speed

Adopting some digital drive thru menus allows QSRs to adapt to customer needs and demands more efficiently than alternative signage. Digital technology can facilitate a number of innovative systems and practices such as:

  • Contactless payment methods
  • Proximity-based order preparation
  • “Smart kitchen” technology
  • Hyper-personalized suggestions
  • Integrated digital touchpoints

By improving the efficiency of drive thru operations and creating automatic touchpoints through digital menus, customers will experience more streamlined service, resulting in shorter wait times, fresher food, and greater overall satisfaction.

Enhance Menu Option Awareness

Even if your menu is limited, customers may be overwhelmed when they reach the order station and need to make decisions. Digital drive thru menus can help limit the stress on customers by pre-selling, cross-selling, and upselling before they have to order.

Integrating digital menus in your drive through can be a productive and profitable practice. With easy-to-update, engaging digital signage, you have the opportunity to:

  • Highlight seasonal items
  • Promote high-ticket options
  • Present special offers and promotions
  • Express loyalty program benefits
  • Guide customers to a satisfying selection


A Wawa test LED drive thru menu board at sunset.


Offering Mobile Ordering Drive Thru and Pick-Up Options

The influence of digital technology on the drive thru has been especially prominent with the rise of mobile ordering and drive thru pick-up options. Customers have changed the way they interact with QSRs, preferring options that prioritize convenience, expediency, and safety.

Mobile Apps and Ordering Convenience

Mobile ordering has skyrocketed in popularity and usage over the last few years, and its prominence is unlikely to fade. Prioritizing optimal performance and usability with mobile ordering technology is critical for QSRs, as mobile ordering provides substantial benefits including:

  • Reduced drive thru counter bottlenecks
  • Streamlined kitchen performance
  • New customer attraction
  • Strengthened customer retention practices
  • Optimal convenience and speed
  • Limited face-to-face interaction
  • Increased potential for return customers
  • Improved potential for personalization and engagement
  • Enhanced usage of loyalty programs and mobile apps
  • Greater drive thru efficiency overall

Contactless Drive Thru Pick-Up

Health and safety have become a major concern among customers and QSR staff. Offering options for contactless service, including contactless payment and contactless pick-up, can provide a safer and more convenient experience.

Contactless pick-up options have been especially popular inside restaurants, but offering contactless drive thru pick-up options is growing, as well. By limiting the amount of contact between customers and employees, QSRs can provide a safer experience that also enhances the speed at which customers receive their order thanks to the integration of mobile transactions.

Adding contactless payment options beyond mobile ordering is another way drive thrus will adapt to the demand for safe, convenient food service experiences. Accepting Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay can make it easier for customers to order, pay, and pick-up their food with minimal contact and increased efficiency.

Third-Party Drive Thru and Curbside

While most QSRs do not provide delivery services on their own, the rise in third-party delivery apps has allowed restaurants to reach customers that they might not have had access to otherwise.

Some restaurants are experimenting with ways they can improve the pick-up process for all customers, including those who are picking up orders to deliver elsewhere. Integrating a designated third-party delivery pick-up lane in your drive thru is one way to capitalize on delivery services, improve efficiency, and limit the impact of delivery pick-ups on ordering customers.

Alternatively, QSRs might keep single- or dual-lane drive thru lanes but direct third-party delivery drivers (as well as other customers) to designated curbside pick-up spots, sending employees out to hand off orders when they are ready without clogging up the drive thru lanes.
Four images of drive thru menu boards. The first and third images are simplified menus with minimal options and large pictures of food. The second and fourth images are LED signs, allowing customization and improving visibility.


Improving Your Drive Thru Infrastructure With the Best Digital Menu Boards

A good drive-thru design depends on the functionality and quality of its signage and structure. With effective drive thru infrastructure, you can have a bigger impact on your customers and increase brand awareness.

Limit Drive Thru Menu Options

Trimming your drive thru menu means saving space, improving legibility, and making the drive thru experience better for customers and employees alike. With a streamlined menu based on preparation complexity and desirability, your QSR can benefit from:

  • Limited food waste
  • Reduced labor needs
  • Better food quality
  • Faster preparation times

By limiting your drive thru menu options, you can create an efficient drive thru experience that doesn’t overwhelm customers and actually caters to what customers want.

Impulse Purchase Drive Thru Menus

Dedicated impulse menu boards can effectively compel customers to order specific offerings, and digital menus can be especially engaging for impulse purchases.

By using designated menu boards to promote impulse purchases through backlit images or digital screens, you can drive sales, increase product awareness, and even encourage faster ordering times, creating a more efficient and profitable drive thru.

Prominent, Effective Canopies

A key feature of effective drive thru infrastructure is the canopy, typically placed over the ordering station and the pick-up window. These canopies are primarily designed to protect customers from the elements, including rain and direct sunlight, but they can also be an effective advertising tool.

Larger, more prominent canopies have improved visibility, attracting the eyes of customers on the road and potentially increasing traffic to your restaurant. A high-quality, durable, attractive canopy is much more appealing than a small canopy that is weathered and damaged. Functionality is key, but your drive thru canopies can do so much more.

With changes to the drive thru system, such as employees taking orders on foot when lines get long, additional canopies can be used to ensure customers and employees are protected. When QSRs invest in quality canopies, they can show their teams that they care about their well-being, too, which can attract future employees and increase order capacity.

Multi-Lane Drive Thrus

Double-lane drive thrus are more common today than they were before, but many QSRs still maintain single-lane drive thrus in spite of how beneficial multi-lane set-ups can be. Some restaurants are now experimenting with additional drive thru lanes, sometimes as many as four distinct lanes, to reduce ordering and wait times.

Multi-lane drive thrus can help restaurants meet the demands of their customers and achieve optimal efficiency without sacrificing food and service quality.

While multiple drive thru lanes can help a number of restaurants, they will be especially beneficial for restaurants with the following features:

  • High drive thru traffic
  • Mobile ordering options
  • Third-party delivery connections
  • Notable busy periods, such as lunch or dinner rushes

Prominent Drive Thru Wayfinding Features

Along with the development of multi-lane drive thrus, the need for prominent drive thru wayfinding features will increase exponentially. Customers will need to know right away which lane they should enter to ensure optimal accuracy and efficiency.

Because customers enter the drive thru for a variety of purposes, from impulse orders to third-party delivery pick-up, helping them go where they need to with prominent wayfinding features is a necessity.

Drive thru wayfinding features could include:

  • Pavement markings
  • Overhead directional signs
  • Cones
  • Dedicated clearance or guiding bars
  • Canopies and awnings


A dual lane drive through featuring two-panel drive thru menus affixed to red pillars.


The Future of the Drive Thru

Digital transformation is a driving force of innovation and evolution for the modern drive thru. Adopting and integrating effective digital menu boards is only the beginning. Trends like the following are sure to influence what the future of the drive thru looks like.

Drive Thrus Beyond QSRs

In the last few years, many restaurants have struggled due to service restrictions and health concerns. While some adapted to provide pick-up and third-party delivery services when dine-in options were not available, many restaurants are still recovering from a decline in patronage and revenue.

However, the success of QSRs with their convenience-oriented designs and functionality are inspiring other restaurants to consider building drive thrus in addition to their dine-in services.

To make this work, drive thru options may be limited to account for preparation time and order quantity, but offering quick service to customers on the go could be a profitable initiative and a solid business planning strategy.

Drive Thru-Only Model

The success of drive thrus in recent years could result in some restaurants adopting a drive-thru only model, allowing them to focus on quick service and quality food preparation. By eliminating dine-in and takeout options, restaurants may opt for an approach that prioritizes convenience, efficiency, and speed, ideal for customers stopping by for meal breaks or generally seeking something quick, easy, and delicious.

Rise in Mobile Ordering and Drive Thru Pick-Up

Mobile ordering and drive thru pick-up options are only going to grow in popularity and use, making it imperative for restaurants to adapt and accommodate customers’ changing needs. QSRs may choose a variety of approaches to accomplish this, from integrating multiple drive thru lanes to improving customer recognition before the order station.

However QSRs approach the task, innovative drive thru solutions are the key to satisfying the modern customer.

Automation in the Drive Thru

With efficiency and customer satisfaction in mind, improvements to the drive thru are necessary. In a tech-savvy world, some restaurants are beginning to experiment with the use of AI to take orders.

By utilizing AI in drive thrus, QSRs stand to benefit from:

  • An expedited ordering process
  • Minimized opportunities for human error
  • A more efficient drive thru system
  • Reduced order preparation time

Customer Focus

Every innovation and integration in your drive thru should prioritize the customer experience. After all, the reason your restaurant is in business is because of your customers.

Modern customers desire more from their drive thru experience than convenience. Meeting customer demands means your drive thru should provide:

  • Exceptional accessibility
  • Sufficient product variety
  • Excellent food quality
  • Maximum efficiency

With quality drive thru elements like digital menu boards, you can cultivate a satisfying customer experience and ensure your restaurants can provide incredible products and top-tier service.

Contact Our Drive Thru Specialists to Learn More