Restaurants and retailers focus on drive-thru outlets

Restaurants and retailers are focusing on curbside and drive-thru business so their customers feel safer and can avoid having contact with other people while the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

That’s resulted in a big focus on implementing drive-thru and curbside strategies. Starbucks for example is planning to open an additional 22,000 stores by 2030, but a number of them will look quite different from the friendly coffee shops we’re used too. At present, just 35% of Starbucks stores in the U.S. offer a drive-thru, but that’s likely to grow to 45% by 2023, according to Earlier this year, Starbucks said it was closing 400 stores nationwide due to the pandemic.

Elsewhere, the fast food chain Chipotle has said it plans to expand its drive-thru format from 100 stores currently to 1,000 by 2025. The company reported a 60% increase in digital orders over the summer.

Noodles & Company has said its “order ahead” program that enables customers to pick up their order from a drive-thru store will become a key part of its business operations. Around 7-% of its new locations will run the program, it said.

Shake Shack meanwhile is touting a three-lane drive-thru design for its new stores, including walk up windows and dedicated delivery courier pick up areas.

An August survey by Bluedot found that consumers are more comfortable these days with firms that offer contactless options, sanitation signage and other safety information. Curbside pickup is also growing in importance for restaurants and retailers, the Bluedot survey found.

Consumers are showing less patience for carryout or in-store pickup. Sixty-seven percent of guests viewed waiting six minutes or more as too long and frustrating for in-store pickup, a Bluedot survey shows. Seventy-two percent surveyed in August say they experience fear and/or anxiety over walking into a store or restaurant. Survey respondents view drive-thrus as the safest way to engage with stores, at 38%, followed by curbside (21%) and in-store pick-up (9%).

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