The drive-thru business is booming

Aided by pandemic induced social distancing measures, consumers are flocking through drive-thru lanes at fast food restaurants in record numbers. According to our research, over 70% of American adults under the age of fifty and living in a suburb have utilized a drive-thru at least once during the past eighteen months.

Although supercharged by the pandemic, the drive-thru has been rapidly increasing in popularity over the last several decades as a growing number of time starved consumers have found the portal both quick and convenient. Some fast-food restaurants claim that as much as 85% of their revenue at some locations comes from the drive-thru window. 

That staggering number has encouraged many fast-food restaurants to abandon in-door dining at many locations and focus only on walk-up or drive-thru patrons. Taco Bell, for example, is launching a new 3,000 square foot two-story concept near Minneapolis (codenamed Defy) that will place the kitchen above four lanes of drive-thru with one dedicated to “order at window” customers and the other three focused on food delivery services and direct online customer orders. Others like Starbucks are quickly adding drive-thru portals and constructing new locations with that feature.The future of the drive-thru will continue to brighten and will acquire a new dimension with BOPURS (buy on-line and pick-up/return at store) and localized delivery of online orders (merchandise orders fulfilled from local stores). It will not be surprising to soon see retailers like Nordstrom, Target, and Whole Foods construct multi-lane drive-thru operations at many of their outlets. Even financial institutions are getting back in the game with drive-thru ATMs. 

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