Takeaway restaurants are some of the most resilient businesses in Zimbabwe. Total lockdowns and nearly two years of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic have not dented the performance of these businesses significantly. A big part of this has been down to adaption to circumstances. Many took the opportunity presented by the pandemic to approach business differently and one great example of this is the drive-through (drive-thru) takeaway business. If you want to establish a drive-through takeaway from scratch or want to adapt an existing takeaway restaurant to a drive-through here are the important things to consider.

Location, location, location!

The first and most important thing you have to consider is location. This applies to both new and existing restaurants though the considerations may be slightly different. The existing restaurant will likely already have an established brand and clientele. People know where you are and they would receive the drive-through as a new convenience. If you are looking to establish a completely new restaurant then you will be better off looking at traffic patterns in the chosen location.


One thing both existing and new restaurants will have to look at the same is the design of the drive-through. Available facilities will determine a lot of what you can but the approach doesn’t have to be one of building out a whole drive through section. In adapting to the lockdown restrictions many restaurants started offering curbside or in-car service. If you look at the way these things operate you will appreciate that this is a drive-through without the infrastructure. In the words of Steve Jobs, design is what something does, not what it looks like. So when you are thinking about design think of how it will work when operating. This brings me to the next point.


The whole point of drive-through is increased convenience. If your approach to driving through doesn’t improve convenience there’s a chance you might be in the wrong business altogether. Convenience has a lot of elements involved including parking, queueing, payment and more. You have to look at your products and your process to work out what convenience is and how it can be improved. The coffee customer has different handling considerations from the fried chicken customer as would the sadza customer. You will have to make considerations for payment in there as well. Service is what the customers experience and it is the most important part of the whole setup. Just remember that service happens long before you are facing the customer.


For those looking to set up something new then you have quite a few options to choose from in terms of products. Those with existing restaurants can look at adding some products to their list as they offer to drive through. Just be mindful that a more complicated menu will likely reduce the convenience you can offer. Complicated isn’t a number of items but difficulty in matching choices. Having a pie that takes 3 minutes to prepare combined with something that takes 30 minutes to prepare may not be the best idea. Here are some products that could do well;

Hot beverages

Takeaway coffee has a huge cult following worldwide but not so much in Zimbabwe. In the colder months of the year, hot beverages do perform very well and offering these via drive-through could be quite a hit.


Confectionary items like cake, doughnuts, cookies and other baked goods make a good product offering for a drive through because they are ready-made and rarely need additional handling before handing them over to the customer.

Ice cream

Icecream has no endorsement from me to explain its popularity as a product. Offering it via drive-through could work very well. Consider children being picked up after school on hot summer afternoons. The experiences could work very well with the usual customer base.


I know to drive through liquor may sound a bit of a contradiction to the “don’t drink and drive message” however the idea would strictly be selling for off-premises consumption. The rush that is experienced for alcohol purchases towards the weekend could be alleviated for customers.


Finally, you will have to give a lot of consideration to your staff. I’ve worked in a drive-through environment before in a very busy restaurant. What made it more difficult was that we made our food from scratch. I recall one incident where a customer refused their sandwich because they couldn’t believe that it was done by the time they had driven around from the order window to the collection window. The trick was using dual headsets which allowed one person to listen and make the sandwich while another took the order. This is an anecdote to say you will need to both pick the right staff and invest in the staff. No person who hasn’t worked in a drive-through environment is ready for a drive-through environment.

With the pandemic changing our lives adaption has been necessitated. Some of these changes may be with us to stay especially where they have brought convenience to people’s lives. Drive-through service could become one of those.