Major chain and rival to Taco Bell phases out customer essential in brand new stores – and it's not the only one | The Sun

Major chain and rival to Taco Bell phases out customer essential in brand new stores – and it's not the only one | The Sun

March 7, 2023

FAST-FOOD chains have been rethinking their business models and as a result a number are axing a customer essential.

The changes are being set in motion following a change in habits after the pandemic.

Customers who enjoy fast-food in a slow-paced setting are heading for disappointment as dining rooms across a range of chains are scrapped.

While businesses began rethinking their models before the pandemic such as introducing digital ordering and more drive-thru's, the aftermath has encouraged large-scale change.

According to QSR Magazine, 16 percent fewer people are dining in at fast-food restaurants.

Meanwhile, deliveries have increased by five percent since 2019 and drive-thru's are 13 percent more busy than pre-pandemic levels.

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CAVA CEO Brett Shulman said: "We always felt the demise of the dining room was greatly exaggerated."

Despite this, 11 fast-food chains are phasing out the essential in order to make way for more drive-thru lanes.

According to The Washington Post, 39 percent of all restaurant traffic is "bumper to bumper" in drive-through lanes.

While some chains are just reducing the size of their dining rooms, others are scrapping them altogether.

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These include, McDonald's, Wingstop, Taco Bell, and Portillos.

Late last year, McDonald's launched a take-out-only prototype in Fort Worth, Texas.

Customers choose to order either via their phone, the drive-thru window or a digital kiosk inside the restaurant.

Their order would then be delivered on a conveyer belt which was introduced to "serve customers faster and easier than ever before," said Max Carmona, senior director of global design and restaurant development at McDonald's.

Also in Texas, Wingstop introduced its first seat-less venue as almost 100 percent of its orders come from customers who want delivery or takeout.

Marisa Carona, chief growth officer of Wingstop said that the Lovers Lane location in Dallas "is a glimpse into the future of Wingstop."

Meanwhile, last year in Minnesota, Taco Bell launched its "Defy" model.

The two-storey prototype is dedicated almost entirely to drive-thru service.

The kitchen located on the second floor delivers food to cars via a lift system and does not have a dine-in area.

Its rival Del Taco has similarly launched its "Fresh Flex" store which is "designed for the future."

The chain claims that the new design will lower net investment costs and improve real estate flexibility while being convenient for guests and workers.

It said: "With innovative additions like third-part pick-up stations and double drive-thru lanes with a dedicated lane for mobile orders and delivery pickups, the future-focused model optimizes operational efficiencies and caters to modern consumers' expectations: accessibility, speed of service, and brand transparency."

The website shows that a number of different prototypes are available to suit different real estate needs.

The drive-thru-only construction plan details a space of less than 1,200 square feet.

Even Portillo's which is known for its large dining rooms has ditched the restaurant setting and is finding it a huge success.

It's drive-thru-only location in Joliet, Illinois it half the size of the usual venues.

"We think we might have found something very, very special that would help up with fortressing in Chicago and elsewhere," said CEO Michael Osanloo.

He added: "We're blown away by the results. It is performing far beyond our expectations."

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