More Fast-Casual Restaurants Install Drive-Thrus

Chains are recognizing the benefits of providing more options to customers.

October 11, 2019

THE COLONY, Texas—For years, most fast-casual restaurants ignored drive-thrus as so “fast food.” While Panera Fast and Fazoli’s have long embraced the drive-thru, more of their fast-casual competitors are getting into the game, QSR Magazine reports.

For example, pizza chain Pie Five has been adding drive-thru windows at new stores since 2016. “Customers understand they’re dealing with something different than just a hamburger drive-thru,” said Christina Coy, vice president of marketing. “The expectation is that it’s going to take a little longer.” Drive-thru times for Pie Five orders average about six minutes.

Pushing the drive-thru change is the proliferation of third-party delivery services, mobile ordering and pickup windows. “With today’s type of consumer, man, if you can do a drive-thru, why wouldn’t you? It’s just so fast and easy,” Coy said. “People want the fastest product possible. And sometimes that’s a drive-thru.” 

Other chains expanding into drive-thru include CAVA, Corner Bakery and Chipotle. “I don’t think there’s a comparison anymore that drive-thru equals fast food. I think that mold is broken by Panera and Chipotle and Starbucks. Who would have thought Starbucks would have been big in drive-thru?” said Danny Bendas, managing partner of Synergy Restaurant Consultants. “If the consumer understands the brand and they know that they have to wait, I don’t think that’s a problem. ... The explanation of that is very important, but generally speaking, people will wait a little longer for quality.”