In 2019, Chipotle realized it had created a profit booster with its mobile order pickup lanes, dubbed Chipotlanes. These lanes quickly captured higher sales compared to a traditional Chipotle restaurant. Other chains, including Cava and Blaze Pizza, began adding digital pickup lanes that same year. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the importance of this off-premise channel.
With dining rooms closed and restrictions in place, drive-thrus were the only way many customers could get food from their favorite restaurants. Many chains have since adopted strategies to add another lane, expand their existing drive-thrus or create a drive-thru channel for the first time.
But building a restaurant with a drive-thru poses many challenges. Drive-thrus are expensive to develop, and face construction and permitting delays. Both restaurant chains that have been building drive-thrus for a long time and ones new to the game have been developing tactics to offset these disruptions. Strategies include buying equipment in bulk, finding ways to work with local municipalities to ease permitting processes and adapting menus to ensure speed of service is maintained.
Restaurant Dive examined the expansion of the drive-thru channel across multiple chains, and learned about the strategies they are employing.