Krystal Redefines the Drive-In

By Fred Exum, CEO, The Krystal Company | August 10, 2009

The Krystal Company (www.krystal.com) is one of the pioneers of the original drive-in concept, operating a number of drive-in units from 1952 through the 1960s. In 2007 Krystal opened its first drive-in, dine-in and drive-thru restaurant in Chattanooga, with the desire for the drive-in component to pay homage to its heritage by featuring dedicated car-hop servers who personally took orders right at the guest's vehicle. At the same time, it was also important for Krystal to look at its guests' lifestyles and extend the Krystal experience even further with the addition of new technology, thus injecting a fresh, modern edge into the classic drive-in.

To achieve this goal, Krystal worked with The Hammond Group (www.hammondgroup.com), a Scala (www.scala.com) certified partner, to develop a revolutionary digital menu board experience for its guests that features a three-zone layout to narrowcast rich media (video, graphics and audio), a live TV signal, and text crawls to multiple displays.

Each car stall is equipped with a traditional backlit menu board with 32" LCD displays. Screen content is triggered upon the car's arrival/departure and can be controlled by the guest during their visit. Guests can elect to scroll through a menu, select a meal, and have the order delivered by car hops directly to their car.

Car-side entertainment
If guests choose to eat in the comfort of their own car, the digital menu board also serves as an entertainment center with a live TV feed for the local Chattanooga area. Audio is piped into the car through a designated station on the car's FM radio, and Krystal even offers in-your-vehicle WiFi Internet access.

The installation of the new drive-in digital menu boards and entertainment features allowed Krystal to increase the average check total and increase sales of its MilkQuake line at the drive-in. It also enabled Krystal to cross-promote product categories while allowing guests to better build customized meals rather than select predetermined combos.

On the heels of this restaurant's success, the company has opened additional drive-in, dine-in and drive-thru locations in Greenville and San Antonio along with five modern, regular dine-in, drive-thru Krystal restaurants in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

Krystal continues to test and acquire key knowledge from its external digital boards in drive-ins and drive-thrus. This knowledge is expected to aid in the implementation of Krystal's long term goal to complete full integration of digital menu boards system-wide, both internally and externally. This will eliminate the need for printed boards at the drive-in and POP in windows, and ultimately be much more cost effective and eco-friendly.
 
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