A closed sign hangs on the door overlooking the empty restaurant during the coronavirus pandemic on April 14, 2020 in New York City.
Rob Kim | Getty Images
Last March, restaurant sales fell sharply after governors banned their own eateries and consumers began working on their grocery stocks. But after a few weeks, a new trend took hold, illustrated by long drive lines that revolved around the perimeter of fast food venues.
Checkers and Rally’s was one of the many fast food businesses that benefited from the shift. With more than 800 locations, it is the largest double-lane restaurant chain in the country.
“We had the biggest year of the year,” said CEO Frances Allen. “We recorded record gains in the same store and created significant momentum.”
The crisis coincided with the chain revamping its menu, reviving sales. To keep up with the increase in demand, about two-thirds of the Checkers and Rally restaurants have moved one of their driveways to handle digital orders and delivery orders.
After decades as a fast-food staple, the driveways have become the superstar, allowing fast-food chains’ sales to recover faster than those of its full-service brethren. According to the NPD group, by December, 44% of orders were outside the local restaurant industry. As the distribution of vaccines in the United States accelerates, it seems that the popularity of orders continues through lasting force, although industry experts predict that some will be moderate.
Florida, Brooksville, Chick-fil-A, fast food chicken restaurant, driving through the pandemic.
Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images
‘I think as people get vaccinated more, the order will decrease, but I do not think it will drop to previous levels because this increased awareness of germs is here to stay and some people are used to doing things differently now. , ”Said Lisa van Kesteren, CEO of SeeLevel HX, who conducts an annual study on the drive-by-lane service.
Adrianne, a 27-year-old living in Wichita, Kansas, agrees. She has been working at a Starbucks with a driveway for several months.
“Ordering in advance, delivery and personal can vary, but driving through is an ongoing necessity,” she said.
Other door-to-door workers say the extra stress of their jobs probably won’t stop for many months. Randy, a 30-year-old worker in Michigan, said he wanted to quit his job many times and that his location had a very high turnover. According to him, the focus shifted from contacting customers to making sure orders were filled in less than a minute.
According to SeeLevelHX’s 2020 study, which was done with secret shopping from June to August, the higher orders and larger orders delayed 29.8 seconds. KFC, owned by Yum Brands, was at the top of the list and was one of the few chains that managed it.
The chain’s US president and chief executive officer, Kevin Hochman, attributed the KFC family filler buckets, which grew by double digits last year. Hochman also serves as interim U.S. president of Pizza Hut, KFC’s sister chain. In response to the higher average ticket, KFC added a $ 30 fill option to its menu to address the trend of larger orders.
Vehicles wait in line at the ride through a Yum lane! Brands Inc. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Taco Bell Restaurant in Lockport, Illinois, USA
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
“Packing a 12-piece bucket versus an eight-piece bucket is easy to do, as opposed to making eight sandwiches – it’s a very different model,” Hochman said. their menus.
Hochman predicts that some through traffic will move to KFC portals as consumers are vaccinated. The fried chicken chain is testing pick-up cubbies, with the expectation that their customers will look for even faster ways to grab their food after the pandemic.
The shift to transit order has also further increased competition between the fast food and fast food sector. Chains like Sweetgreen and Shake Shack have announced plans to add driveways. Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has expanded its driveways for digital orders only, said it will accelerate plans to add more “Chipotlanes” to its footprint.
But even before the pandemic, fast food chains invested in their doorways and gave them the upper hand. McDonald’s has spent more than $ 300 million on Dynamic Yield, an artificial intelligence venture that would help the venture spend more on its customers. (The company is now investigating the sale of Dynamic Yield’s third-party business.)
These investments to make driveways more efficient have only accelerated in recent years. Chains such as Burger King, KFC and Restaurant Brands International have designed new restaurant formats that emphasize the driveway and downgrade to smaller dining rooms.
Burger King Next Level’s hanging kitchen above the driveways
Source: Burger King
John Kelly, chief operating officer of Arby, said the Inspire Brands chain has been working for the past three to five years to make production more efficient. Many of the kitchens now work with two sets of workers who compile orders to keep up with the flow.
“We certainly did not upgrade all our restaurants during Covid, there was not enough time or manpower to do so, but we were already on track, and we accelerated it by 2020,” Kelly said. “And we will continue to upgrade it in our restaurants, certainly where there is volume today, but also for the future.”
Van Kesteren points out that automation is another major trend stemming from the increase in orders during the crisis. McDonald’s and White Castle are both testing artificial intelligence software to execute faster and more accurate orders.
“In the past, automation has been investigated and fully automated lanes and kiosks are being tested, but this has accelerated it a lot,” she said.
Kelly said Arby’s are investing in technology that will be better able to inform general managers how they can staff a restaurant as traffic fluctuates. During the busiest times during the pandemic, Arby’s focused many of its restaurant workers on a single task, whether it was ordering or filling drinks.
“So they do not always try to figure out where the business is going, but they do,” he said. “I think we learned a lot about it during Covid, and we’ll take it further.”