Subway franchisees offering a car's-eye view

It's been estimated that 60 to 80 percent of quick-service restaurant business is generated via the drive-thru component – no surprise considering the industry’s convenient and speedy nature.

But some QSRs are formulated differently. The Subway restaurant chain, for example, prides itself on customization, generated by an in-store process in which customers can watch their creations being made by “sandwich artists.”

Still, plenty of Subway franchisees have incorporated a drive-thru, relying heavily on technologically advanced menu boards to effectively communicate a customized experience outside.

Others have taken things a bit further – renovating their buildings to feature an elevated ramp for cars to get a better view of a second sandwich station visible through a large picture window. Some have called the concept a “drive-view.”

Harold Jackson, based out of Northwest Ohio, is one of those franchisees. His store in Lima, Ohio opened about three years ago with a drive-view and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

“At first, I think customers were confused, but everyone loves it. When I look at what it’s done for us, it was by far the best decision I could have made when opening the store. Sales are much higher than I could have anticipated with that second point of sale,” Jackson said.

Jackson predicted the component would generate between 20 and 25 percent of sales. He said the numbers have gone “way beyond” that prediction and almost half of his business is conducted outside.

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Costs to create the drive-view came mostly from the duplicity in machinery and the glass. He said it wasn’t much higher than a regular drive-thru component he added to another one of his stores in Bluffton, Ohio.

The Bluffton store, however, has since closed its drive-thru because of numerous issues.

“We had fits with it. People would pull up to the speaker and it’d be very difficult to pull an order from them. It is an interstate location, too, so a line would back up quick. It wasn’t a fast process and it was frustrating. We were getting more complaints than sales, so we closed it,” Jackson said.

Still, he knew there was potential in having a drive-thru, especially considering other QSRs’ rampant success with the component.

He brainstormed with DuWayne Schroeder, vice president of Humphries Developments, the regional development agency for Subway, and Schroeder suggested he speak to a franchisee in Puerto Rico who had many stores with a drive-view concept.

“It soured me that the Bluffton drive-thru didn’t work. When I opened up a new store, I didn’t even want to put a drive-thru in, but (Schroeder) told me to hold out on my decision until I got a hold of (the franchisee) in Puerto Rico,” Jackson said. “Once I did and I saw what could be done, it was a no-brainer.”

Jackson’s main objective was to re-create the exact same experience that customers get inside. He added a second sandwich unit, facing the window, and raised the driveway about 1 foot so customers can look down at their creations being made.

Employee training is no different – except for the headset addition – and Jackson said the system allows for not only expediency, but also accuracy.

“With this window, we don’t get orders mixed up, ever. It just doesn’t happen anymore because it’s so simplified,” Jackson said. “If I have one negative to say about it, it’s that I wish we could do it faster, but that’s our continual goal and that’s everybody’s goal with a drive-thru.”

According to Les Winograd, public relations specialist at Subway’s Franchise World Headquarters, the viewer window was first designed about 10 or 15 years ago, and most of them are outside of the U.S.

“As of late July, there were 1,852 Subway locations with a drive-thru, out of 33,000 in the world. We do not have a count on regular versus viewer window-types of components, but we do know many viewer window drive-thrus are in Puerto Rico and some are in British Columbia,” Winograd said.

Schroeder said Jackson’s Lima store was the first drive-view restaurant in his region, and another franchisee, Jeff Sebeika, is getting ready to open a second in Fort Wayne, Ind. Whether or not there will be more is hard to predict, but as Jackson shops more locations for future Subways, chances are good.

“I would do this again in a heartbeat. Being able to watch us build a customized sandwich is our brand. Once I saw that we could do that with a drive-thru component, I was sold,” Jackson said. “And our customers have been sold on it, too. It does work.”



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