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Drive-Thrus Outperform Dining Rooms

For fast-food restaurants, more sales are happening outside the stores, which has led chains to expand their ability to take drive-thru orders.
July 11, 2018

​RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Drive-thrus at fast-food chains have become busier these days, with drive-thrus garnering more sales than inside the restaurant, the Press-Enterprise reports. QSRs are building bigger drive-thrus to service more vehicles faster to meet the increased demand.

“The majority of the restaurants are 60% to 70% drive-thru,” said Todd Horner, whose family owns more than 30 McDonald’s locations in Southern California. “Ones that are closer to the freeways tend to be a little bit higher.”

Some California QSRs have eliminated the dining room altogether, opting for drive-thru and walk-up windows only, including a Lake Forest Dunkin’ Donuts, and Starbucks stores in Riverside, Pomona and Covina. These companies are also improving the drive-thru experience with more efficient ordering and payment systems.

Other changes include adding drive-thrus to endcap locations in strip malls and providing staff members with tablets to take orders while customers wait in line. Some chains also have two drive-thru lines to facilitate order-taking and traffic flow.

However, some restaurants run into opposition from neighbors when wanting to open a store with a drive-thru. “In some cases, you’ll find jurisdictions will put restrictions on drive-thrus,” said Randall Lewis with Lewis Group of Companies, a shopping center developer. “It’s a balancing act. It can be an aesthetic. Do we want people in our community to see a drive-through? … Sometimes it’s jurisdictions that are saying what kind of tenants will use drive-thrus. … It may be a way of saying we don’t want that kind of tenant. We want something else.”

With dining rooms shrinking as restaurants look to expand in smaller spaces, drive-thrus provide a way for retailers to “do larger volumes in either the same space or a little bit smaller space,” Lewis said.