The COVID-19 pandemic hit the American restaurant industry hard in 2020, forcing a dining-room shutdown almost everywhere, instilling fear and uncertainty over customer and employee safety, and generally changing the way restaurant businesses must operate in order to safely serve guests. For most businesses, it has been a difficult crisis to successfully navigate.
Not all restaurant concepts suffered equally, however. In a recent story from QSR Magazine, the periodical reported that location technology company Bluedot’s second “State of What Feeds Us” report found that 74 percent of people have visited a drive thru the same amount or more often than usual since COVID-19 landed. That’s a 43-percent jump in growth from April.
The report only confirms what we in the QSR sector have already seen with our own eyes: Consumers are leaning on drive thrus to avoid crowds and contact during the coronavirus crisis. It’s no secret why, either: In addition to their natural convenience, drive-thru lanes reduce human contact, and therefor the risk of viral transmission. They have also not been affected by dining-room shutdowns. For these reasons, QSR concepts with drive-thrus have enjoyed a critical lifeline and advantage over restaurants that do not.
No one really knows exactly how long this pandemic will last, or how it will affect QSR consumer trends afterwards. But in our new age of social distancing, the shift of focus away from the on-premise dining room is likely to alter customer preferences well beyond the current period. For QSR businesses to flourish in both normal and uncertain conditions, they must be technology-enabled, efficient, and safe for customers.
As one of the world’s largest and most successful QSR franchise owners, the Dhanani Group is helping to lead the way in restoring consumer confidence in dining safety. This requires extreme flexibility and learning on the fly as our restaurants across the United States pivot to contactless ordering, pickup, and transactions. These options will all be critical design considerations moving forward as we work to expand our business, along with tech-based sanitation solutions.
Many QSR franchises have already experimented with order-ahead pickup lanes inside their restaurants. Permanent drive-thru pickup lanes may follow. The more convenient we make the experience for guests, the safer they will feel and the more satisfied they will be. But as we continue to adapt to new challenges, we know we can continue to rely on the drive-thru lane to be our greatest asset in attracting business during the pandemic.