- Jimmy John's opened its first drive-thru-only restaurant, in Bartow, Florida, on Thursday, according to a press release emailed to Restaurant Dive.
- The new format promotes mobile order pickup, offering a dual-sided drive-thru with one lane designated for mobile and online orders. It also includes lockers for carryout, as well as Jimmy John's updated branding first introduced last year.
- Similar to other new restaurant formats, the Inspire Brands-owned sandwich chain looks to lean into a faster and more digital consumer experience. Several brands, from KFC to Panera, have rolled out drive-thru designs since the start of the pandemic to capitalize on surging off-premise sales.
Jimmy John's has many drive-thrus in its portfolio, and the channel has complemented its signature delivery business. Offering a digital-order-enabled drive-thru-only option is likely to bolster that business.
"The drive-thru only model will feature dual-sided pick-up lanes which will allow traffic to flow better by utilizing the design's two lanes instead of one — an ideal model for today's guests who value convenience and efficiency," Jimmy John's said in an emailed statement.
Although increasing business at the drive-thru throughout the past two years has slowed service times across the industry, pickup and carryout options are typically faster than delivery, which can often range between 30 to 40 minutes depending on the delivery radius. In a digitally accelerated pandemic environment, most restaurant consumers now state they get annoyed if they have to wait more than five minutes for their orders at the drive-thru window. Having a restaurant focused purely on drive-thru and carryout could provide a major advantage in speed of service.
This new restaurant design seems to represent a larger effort to prioritize Jimmy John's off-premise business in general as those consumer habits change. In late 2020, Jimmy John's announced a partnership with DoorDash to use its Self-Delivery product to meet higher delivery demand and to reach new customers on DoorDash's marketplace.
The collaboration happened despite the company once vowing to never use third-party delivery apps. That vow was made prior to the pandemic and the chain's 2019 acquisition by Inspire Brands, however, which has worked across its portfolio to ensure changing consumer needs are being met. Inspire recently opened its first ghost kitchen, for example, offering items from some of its brands, including Jimmy John's, Arby's, Sonic, Buffalo Wild Wings and Rusty Taco.
Shifting to an off-premise focus has helped Inspire Brands more than double its revenue since 2019, according to CNBC.
Notably, Inspire Brands isn't the only company pushing the gas on the drive-thru and there is plenty of reason for this. New data from The NPD Group finds that drive-thru visits hold the largest share of off-premise business overall at 52%, while carryout represents 37% and delivery represents 11%. As such several brands, including Arby's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King, Del Taco and McDonald's, are developing drive-thru-only or drive-thru-focused restaurant models as drive-thru visits continue to increase despite a return to dine-in traffic.
Drive-thru-focused models not only meet changing consumer demands, they're also likely to interest potential new franchisees interested in the potential of higher check sizes from digital sales and more diverse real estate options. The timing of this model coincides with Jimmy John's recent introduction of its first franchise incentive program.