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Drive-Thru Dynamic (Part 1)

Get to know your clients in their cars really well, but watch your toes!

CHICAGO — The drycleaning drive-thru is a dynamic place! Owners offer their clients convenience and it’s a wonderful chance for their teams to interact. Let’s hear from three dry cleaners who each talk about their own particular drive-thru experiences.

Alex Yearout is the owner of Trussville, Ala.-based Complete Cleaners.

Yearout relates that: “John Patterson established this cleaners in 1994. He re-located in the year 2000 to a 5,000 sq. ft. building that he built, specifically customized, for an easily accessed drive-thru, lobby, and plant.

“A few years later he added a smaller dry store second location with the same drive-thru and lobby layout.”

The owner says the drive-thru is the center focus of both properties.

“It is set up so that the customer pulls up to the building on the driver-side and never has to get out of their vehicle,” explains Yearout. “We can serve four cars at one time. The value for the customer is that their visits are quick and convenient.”

The owner and his team like several things about having a drive-thru.

“I like that we can accommodate many visitors in a short period of time. We are open 70 hours each week, but our peak moments in the day move quickly.

The team likes that it makes the customers happy to get good service; and the customer likes and deserves it!”

He notes that it’s surprising to see how many folks don’t use drive-thrus properly.

“There are many signs on our lot, but somehow folks still come in the wrong way sometimes. I ask the tellers at the bank and the servers at the fast food restaurants if they experience this, and they say ‘Yes!’ So, it’s not just us.”

About challenges with running a drive-thru at his cleaners, Yearout relates that, “It can be challenging to slow the customer down so that we are sure to serve them properly. Sometimes the speed of the drive-thru hinders our ability to communicate the details.”


Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Sheldon Cleaners believes in curbside care.

This cleaners talks about the concept of the drive-thru: “For most people, curbside service brings to mind an image of wait staff zipping around on roller-skates delivering food to parked vehicles, but years later the theme is the same: delivering product with a personal touch for the customer’s convenience.”

Sheldon Cleaners notes it was established in 1949 with one location. Over the last 70 years it has grown to 25 stores, 16 routes, and with a modern laundromat and café, all while employing 175 “outstanding staff,” the cleaners describes.

Why offer curbside service?

Well there are benefits to both clients and the team, as this cleaners explains:

“As a company, curbside service allows us another point of pickup and drop-off, and gives us a competitive edge for offering that convenience.

“On the customer side, they save time, skip the line, and have their items delivered all while in the comfort of their own car. This can be a relief for the customer due to any number of reasons: children in car seats, a conference call, weather, or even a disability.”

The firm points out that curbside service does have its own challenges, which it says, “can range from the mundane to the insane.”

Sheldon Cleaners says that when their team member opens the door, they can experience anything including inclement weather, an aggressive pet, or a customer who is irate due to a perceived extended wait time.

“The biggest challenge is answering the question of, ‘Who do I help first?’

“The best approach is communication. Simply acknowledging the customer in the drive-thru adds a professional touch to both the current customer as well as those waiting. The reward is patience from both.”

The company relates that the biggest obstacle to a drive-thru is often zoning restrictions.

“But,” the cleaners says, “we have found that a curbside permit is much easier to obtain, with the only requirement being that the product, ‘passes through a doorway.’ Armed with this knowledge we have been able to offer curbside service at 10 of our 25 locations.”

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.