The increase in supermarkets offering drive-thru click & collect bays could be the precursor to real-time drive-thru shopping, according to Quail Digital, which supplies headsets for supermarkets and fast food restaurants.

CEO Tom Downes said all the supermarkets were “looking at how the inevitable march of click & collect can potentially turn into a more real-time service”.

“It would have to start with a very narrow selection, but fuel stations use night staff to pick goods to supplement a petrol order and that works fine,” he said.

“While the current focus needs to be on delivering pre-ordered and pre-paid goods quickly, supermarkets could begin by offering the option to order extra items at the collection point.”

Drive-thru click & collect for pre-orders was trialled by Tesco in August 2010. Asda rolled out the service to six stores earlier this year. Customers order online and drive to the car park to pick up their shopping within a two-hour time slot.

But Downes said retailers should not be tying customers to a fixed time - and that they should be able to have orders ready at short notice.