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Drive-Thru Franchises | The Necessity of a Drive-Thru in 2020

Gold Star Chili Drive-ThruThe last few months of pandemic life have highlighted exactly why a drive-thru is essential for the strength of any fast-food franchise. Aside from being a go-to convenience during better economic times, a drive-thru is a pandemic necessity.

In most areas of the country, the moment of truth arrived around mid-March, and businesses were forced to adapt — ready or not — as COVID-19 became a more apparent reality. Restaurants with only inside dining began to change practices to enhance sanitation and distance patrons. Then, within a few days, shelter-in-place orders went into effect. Soon, restaurants, if open at all, could serve food only as takeout, by curbside service.

That is, unless the establishment was already equipped with a drive thru.

Rather than have to pivot to a new paradigm of mostly curbside service, restaurants equipped with a drive-thru have experienced a nearly seamless transition to the new normal.

Already Strong and Getting More Popular

The New York Times reported in May 2020, that for many chains “… drive-through accounted for as much as 70 percent of revenue before the crisis, generating billions of dollars for the industry every month. During the pandemic, sales have mostly held steady. In March, drive-throughs generated $8.3 billion across the fast-food industry, an increase from $8 billion in sales over the same period in 2019.”

Even as restaurants in more recent weeks have re-opened with restrictions, many consumers remain wary of dining indoors. According to a survey conducted shared by Food and Wine Magazine, 53% of Americans say they still don’t feel comfortable dining inside a restaurant. For these people, a drive-thru franchise is a valued lifeline to favorite foods, conveniently and safely.

It’s such an ideal, simple portal for continued profit that even restaurants without existing drive-thru’s set up makeshift drive-thru lines in their parking lots, carrying food out to cars.

Any additional front-end cost to incorporate a drive-thru window and system in a restaurant is well worth the investment. It is an indispensable avenue for service in times of crisis as well as in better days.

Caution Will Never Completely Go Away

Every individual has their own perception of best practices during the pandemic, but as a general rule, the average person is more cautious of businesses and of each other.

Re-opening to some degree has helped ease tensions, but as COVID-19 case numbers rise again, few feel completely safe. The rush back to “normalcy” has put people at risk. In many areas, this has resulted in a return to tighter restrictions.

As restaurants continue with limitations, including heightened sanitation measures, the future of drive-thru franchises is strong.

Drive-Thru’s Will Evolve

All this said, with increased demand for drive-thru service, operators will have to find ways to accommodate longer car lines efficiently. Additional lanes may be necessary, or management may need to dispatch staff to tend to cars personally, not just at the window.

Operators may need to reconfigure prep and kitchen area layout for more efficiency or even more staff to turn out the higher volume of drive-thru orders.

An American staple in fast food for decades, the drive-thru window is a no-brainer feature to serve and satisfy customers, whether at a chili restaurant franchise or other restaurant. The convenience and peace of mind of grabbing an order and moving on will continue to endure and become more popular.

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Social Media Teaser: The Necessity of a Drive-Thru in 2020