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Brief Published: 11 Nov 2020

Fast-Food Restaurants Speed Up the Drive-Thru

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Burger King

Drive-thrus accounted for 42% of all fast-food service orders in Q2 2020, an uptick of 26% on the previous quarter (NPD, 2020). To cater to diners seeking socially distanced formats, shrewd companies are reshaping the to-go experience to alleviate pandemic concerns and streamline ordering. Here are three to watch.

  • Burger King: In 2021, Burger King will trial a three-lane drive-thru to speed up the ordering process: one for placing orders in person, one for collecting mobile orders, and one for delivery drivers. To eliminate excess face-to-face contact, mobile orders are placed in lockers that customers will access via keycode. With Burger King’s drive-thru wait times increasing by roughly two minutes between 2018 and 2020 (SeeLevel HX, 2020), this revamp will be critical to reducing queues and ensuring drive-thrus remain seen as a convenient option.

  • Taco Bell: US fast-food chain Taco Bell aims to reduce in-person ordering with a blend of contactless pick-ups and intuitive tech. Guests ordering in advance through a mobile app will receive a notification to either go through a priority drive-thru lane to retrieve their meal, or to a designated parking space for kerbside collection. For guests who prefer to order on-premises, cashiers will be stationed outside with tablets for taking orders. By eliminating the interior as an area for congregating, Taco Bell reimagines restaurants as order fulfilment areas akin to ghost kitchens.

  • Starbucks: While Starbucks already uses drive-thrus in select US markets, the coffee chain is planning to expand its quick-order locations to cities across the country. Rather than pure drive-thrus, these formats will focus exclusively on executing mobile orders. Customers will order in advance on an app, and receive a notification when their items are ready. It’s a shrewd move to minimise in-person contact – one that Starbucks was already trialling in China and NYC pre-pandemic.

For more, on fast-food innovation, see Game-Changing Fast-Food Concepts.

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Taco Bell
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Taco Bell
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Starbucks Express, Beijing
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Starbucks, New York
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