Even as dine-in restaurant sales begin to bounce back after pandemic disruption, many chains are still seeing steady growth in off-premise and digital transactions. Off-premise traffic made up 70% of restaurant traffic industrywide in July 2020, and increased to 80% in July 2021, Hudson Riehle, SVP of the National Restaurant Association's research and knowledge group, said during a virtual conference in October. Chains like Chipotle and Yum Brands are posting billions in systemwide digital sales, making it difficult to ignore the shift toward more off-premise business.
QSR chains responded to this opportunity with new store designs and prototypes. These new designs showcase off-premise assets including multiple drive-thru lanes, mobile order pickup and smaller dining rooms. How do they compare? Check out the latest redesigns below.
From its Cantinas to its Go Mobile restaurants, Taco Bell has long been at the forefront of creating store concepts that can satisfy the different priorities of its customers. The latest iteration of its digital-friendly Go Mobile design, dubbed Taco Bell Defy, takes this design a step further.
The two-story model, which was created with Taco Bell franchisee Border Foods and Minneapolis-based design firm Vertical Works, will have four drive-thru lanes, including three lanes that will be designated for mobile or delivery order pickups. After scanning a QR code, the customer will pull forward and receive their food through a lift system. A fourth lane will offer a traditional drive-thru experience with face-to-face interaction with staff members.
The store, which broke ground in August, is expected to open next summer in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
Panera's new double drive-thru design will provide one lane dedicated to Rapid Pick-Up orders, digitized drive-thru menus, updated ordering kiosks and automatic loyalty identification. The stores will be 20% smaller than its current cafés and accommodate indoor and outdoor dining, according to Business Insider. Additionally, baker ovens will be in full view of diners who can watch the baking process.
The first location with this design will open in November in Ballwin, Missouri. Each new Panera unit or remodel will use this design going forward. Most of these locations will be in suburban markets that can accommodate drive-thru lanes.
The fast food chain's "Fresh Flex" design offers third-party delivery pickup stations, double drive-thru lanes for mobile and delivery order pickups and a parking area for guests to park, eat and go. The prototype, which was designed by MY Studio ID, is part of the company's redesign strategy called "Menu of Venues." This program allows franchise developers to choose between various build out options ranging from 1,200 to 2,400 square feet. Operators can also choose between a drive-thru-only model, drive-thru endcap model, store conversions or standalone sites.
Del Taco's first Fresh Flex restaurant will be a company-operated location in Orlando, with more slated systemwide for 2023 as new and existing franchisees adopt this model, Del Taco CEO John Cappasola said during the company's Q2 2021 earnings call.
Dunkin' opened its first digital-only restaurant in Boston during the summer. The store lacks a dining room and only services orders that are placed in advanced on Dunkin's mobile app or in-store at digital kiosks. Guests can pay with cash, credit card or gift cards and collect food in a designated pickup area. The store design is similar to Chipotle's first digital-only store, which opened last year and services delivery and pickup orders without a full-service line.
El Pollo Loco
El Pollo Loco completed the first three restaurant remodels that feature its L.A. Mex design in March, with more than scheduled to open over the next few years. This design, which includes double drive-thrus, highlights off-premise channels with the addition of GPS-enabled curbside pickup and Pollo To Go digital order pickup cubbies. There are two versions of these store models — one includes a takeout window, dual drive-thru lanes, curbside parking spots, patio seating and no indoor dining. The second includes a dual drive-thru, curbside pickup parking and a smaller dining room that opens onto a patio area with garage style doors.
This redesign initiative is part of the company's effort to bring the company back to 5% annual new unit growth in the U.S. by 2023, El Pollo Loco's former CEO Bernard Acoca said in a press release.