Opportunity Lost: The Money You Didn’t Make Because of Long Lines

One of the things we like to think about in marketing is the amount of money you didn’t make by doing something poorly. For example, the lack of an online presence (website, claimed Google Business listing, etc.) guarantees that people who want to find what you have won’t. Massive opportunity lost.

Wait times, guests leaving before getting service, or avoidance altogether is huge revenue-lost opportunities for businesses. 

A few anecdotes from where I live, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii:

There’s a fast-food business here (name rhymes with hell) that was notorious for extremely slow drive-through times pre-pandemic and worst now. I once waited 20 minutes in the drive-through. I’ve tried to go there maybe ten times in the past few years and drove away each time due to a line of cars in the drive-through. I don’t want a taco that much.

Another fast-food business has gone drive-through only. I pass it many daily and often notice ten cars in the drive-through. Two or three minutes a car, I’d assume, so you’d have to wait at least 20 minutes for a burger.

The fact that these businesses have customers is wonderful for them, but how many people drive by and decide to go elsewhere?

How Long Will You Wait?

Some research shows that the average order from when a person enters a drive-through to when they receive their food is about 6 minutes for chain drive-throughs, up about 30 seconds from the previous year. Thus, one could assume the expectation is about six minutes. 

How long will you wait?

When expectations for consumer behavior do not match reality, they switch brands or go elsewhere.  

Interestingly, even people in an Emergency Room have a time at which they will leave if they have been seen: 2 hours.

All Businesses Can Lose by Making Customers Wait

These issues are not confined to fast food. How often have you walked out of a store because nobody was there to answer questions? How many times have you gone into a grocery store to pick up a quick item or two and left because you saw huge lines at the checkout? 

The problem is that we learn where the lines are usually long, and then we put them on our mental “do not patronize” list. That potential revenue for the business is lost. 

I can’t help but think businesses would put more resources into automation, staff hiring, staff training, and staff retention if they considered how much they were NOT making due to a poor customer experience. They might find that the costs of fixing these problems (and others) are far less than the revenue they gained.