Among the many business pivots COVID has catalyzed, one of the most remarkable – and perhaps inevitable – has been a new focus on and investment in the drive-through, and not just in banking. Long a functional (and often-unsightly) requirement of free-standing fast-food joints, the ability for drive-throughs to offer customers a safe and – dare we say – delightful experience is now seen as indispensable to delivering on a truly customer-centric strategy that meets consumer needs while simultaneously driving business growth.
Consider Shake Shack, a quick-service restaurant whose Manhattan roots and sleek design aesthetic attracted people across its 250 US stores, none of which featured drive-throughs. Once pandemic lockdowns began, the restaurant began implementing and retrofitting existing sites for a new drive-through concept called “Shake Tracks” with lanes dedicated to both ordering and pick-up of digital orders. Shake Shack’s CEO Randy Garotti sees it as key to the future: “This country has proven that the drive-thru in its old form works. We want to do it in this new form.”
Before COVID, Tex Mex quick-service chain Chipotle had begun investment in the drive-through with 10 of its US locations prototyping what it’s dubbed “Chipotlanes,” which drove 10% higher sales than those without drive-throughs. By 2021, 70% of its new locations will have drive-through lanes.
Interest in expanding this format has been so intense, in fact, that restaurant consultant Aaron Allen says, “Through the pandemic, there’s been a double-digit increase in revenue among drive-thrus, so it’s created a buyer frenzy among restaurant chains for that real estate.” This level of investment indicates that drive-through is here to stay, and these more optimized experiences will continue to drive consumer expectation for what the drive-up can and should offer.
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