- The Habit Burger now has drive-thrus at 35 of its locations as of the end of 2018, CEO Russ Bendel said during the company’s fourth quarter 2018 earnings call.
- The fast casual burger chain plans to open 21 to 23 company-owned locations this year, of which a third will be on the East Coast. Two-thirds of the new stores will have drive-thrus.
- "We continue to like the added convenience drive-thrus provide our guests, as well as [how] the service format adds to our universe of potential locations," Bendel said.
The drive-thru, which has long been a pillar of the fast food category, has begun to creep into the fast casual space. Earlier this year, Chipotle started testing "Chipotlanes" for mobile order pickups where customers can drive up to a window at a predetermined time and get their food. Habit Burger's addition of drive-thrus has been going on for 24 months, according to Bendel.
Adding drive-thrus can also quickly help boost sales, and it makes up nearly 70% of business for QSR brands. Panera, which has been adding drive-thrus at its locations for several years, increased sales 25% to 30% when it first started offering them, according to QSR Magazine.
The incorporation of a drive-thru format has already led to one important change. Previously, one-third of Habit Burger's orders were for carryout, but with the addition of drive-thru, delivery and mobile app ordering, that percentage is shifting, Bendel said.
With fewer dine-in customers, stores don't need to be as large as they have been in the past, and new stores coming down the pipeline will have about 200 square feet less than what the chain has typically used, Bendel said.
One of the chain's biggest challenges with drive-thrus may be their wait times. Because Habit Burger cooks everything to order, Bendel estimates a customer will probably have to wait six to eight minutes if there is no one else in line. The timing doesn't seem to bother Bendel as the chain isn't trying to compete with popular fast food chains like McDonald's or Burger King, which average wait times of 273 seconds and 193 seconds, respectively.
"We're going to provide an elevated product with better service that's convenient," Bendel said.
While long lines could be a problem to attract customers, it hasn't been slowing the likes of Starbucks down, which is planning to roll out drive-thrus to 80% of its new U.S. stores, according to Bloomberg. While it has an over four-minute-long wait, customers keep coming, and drive-thru makes up 70% of sales at locations with the service.
As long as Habit Burger can maintain its quality and service, those few extra minutes of waiting might be worth it in the end.