As we edge into the second month of 2021, it takes very little effort to see and feel the continued economic impact Covid-19 has had on every sector. But, despite all the negative impact there have been some sectors who were able to pivot in such a way to not only stay afloat, but to also bring new services to their customers.


One sector that has been able to do this successfully has been QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants). From retooling dining rooms into larger prep areas to keep workers safe, creating drive-thru services that previously didn’t exist, or refining menu options for quicker service, QSRs overall have not only survived but thrived.


Before the pandemic crisis many QSRs, like McDonald’s, were seeing drive-thru account for as much 70% of revenue. This was already generating billions of dollars for the industry every month. When the pandemic began to impact the US in March 2020, sales mostly held steady with an increase from $8 billion to $8.3 billion in sales (over the same period in 2019), according to data from the NPD Group, a market research firm.


With shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, fast food dining rooms were closed in March 2020 in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19, putting much of the pressure on the drive-thru systems to get orders out to customers. According to Restaurant Business, chains like Del Taco, Burger King and Jack in the Box began focusing their efforts on drive-thru services. This even led Burger King to create a prototype of new restaurants with indoor seating completely eliminated.


While many customers will continue to rely on food delivery apps like Postmates, Grubhub, and Seamless for their fast-food orders, restaurants like Chipotle are looking to implement more contactless drive-thru solutions where they previously hadn’t before.


In February 2019, Chipotle had only 10 drive-thru systems of their 2,700+ locations. Known as a more fast-casual chain, a strong pivot was needed when 2020 hit.


“Chipotlanes” have quickly become what Chipotle Chief Restaurant Officer Scott Boatwright called, “my most-profitable experience” because of higher check averages.


Other restaurant brands like Pizza Italia and Dairy Dip Diner have also implemented drive-thru lanes with great success. As a long-standing buffet restaurant, Pizza Italia had to make a strong pivot to find a new way to serve its customers with new Covid-19 restrictions. They, along with traditional 50’s style Dairy Drip Diner, were able to create a drive thru experience that allowed for a new revenue source and with less personnel needed.


“The digital experience has just exploded with COVID,” Boatwright said. “And, that business has been really sticky.”


By the end of Q1 in 2020, Chipotle’s digital sales had grown by more than 80% year-over-year, the company said. During that quarter, the burrito chain added 19 new restaurants with 11 of those featuring Chipotlanes. That is close to the company’s stated goal of outfitting 60% of stores with new drive-thru systems.


No doubt every sector has had to adjust to be successful in an unpredictable market, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for QSRs to reevaluate and implement for continued success.


Are you looking to reevaluate your QSR’s drive-thru experience? Contact us today to connect with one of our team members.