- Auntie Anne's announced Monday it has opened its first drive-thru. The franchised unit is co-branded with Jamba and located in Wylie, Texas.
- Auntie Anne's is exploring nontraditional locations outside of shopping malls, including food trucks, drive-thru restaurants, co-branded locations and units near colleges and universities. Over 25% of Jamba's locations have drive-thrus and the brand aims for 50% of its new locations to feature drive-thrus.
- Auntie Anne's is one of many restaurant chains focusing on drive-thru opportunities as the industry prepares for a post-pandemic future. As of October, 38% of franchisees reported they had added drive-thru capabilities, according to a TD Bank survey.
Auntie Anne's could quickly scale its drive-thru access by co-branding with new and existing Jamba restaurants that already offer the off-premise channel. According to the press release, Jamba has already received inquiries from franchisees looking to integrate Auntie Anne's brand into their restaurants. The two restaurants, owned by parent company Focus Brands, are actively looking for franchisees to open co-branded restaurants in certain cities across the U.S.
"Consumer research shows that our guests want access to Auntie Anne's outside of the mall," Focus Brands Chief Development Officer Brian Krause said. "Considering how the pandemic has changed consumer preferences, we recognize the importance of building our off-premise offerings and evolving our development capabilities to provide franchisees with additional opportunities, including co-brand locations that have potential for enhanced revenue."
The growth of off-premise has pushed several chains that already have drive-thrus to optimize the channel, as well. In November, Arby's Chief Operating Officer John Kelly told Restaurant Dive a franchisee was building the brand's first drive-thru-only model in Texas.
"I don't believe we're going to see [drive-thru only locations] widespread, but I do believe we're going to see a shift and some opportunistic real estate opportunities throughout the U.S. as we come through the pandemic," Kelly said.
An Applebee's franchisee is also piloting a drive-thru pickup window that allows diners to order and pay ahead on their phones at an existing restaurant in Texarkana, Texas. The operator will collect feedback from guests to inform future restaurant design.
QSR heavyweights including Taco Bell, Burger King and KFC are also overhauling their drive-thru designs to optimize efficiency, deploying multiple car lanes that accommodate mobile orders and digitally integrated menu boards. As the drive-thru channel becomes a growing diner expectation regardless of restaurant category, investing in these operations could be a savvy way for franchisees to keep customers engaged and grow sales.