Are four drive-thru lanes better than two?
Taco Bell last week introduced a new two-story concept, Taco Bell Defy. The design features four drive-thru lanes on the ground level and houses the kitchen on the second level where orders are prepared to send below for pickup.
Three lanes are dedicated to mobile or delivery order pickups, enabling a quick “skip the line” promise for customers ordering via the Taco Bell app and third-party delivery services. One traditional lane supports on-site ordering and pickup.
Mobile customers arriving in cars scan their order via a QR code at digital check-in screens. They then pull forward to the pickup area and their food is delivered via a contactless proprietary lift system from the elevated food-prep area. Two-way audio and video technology lets customers interact directly with the food-prep team above in real time.
The 3,000 square-foot model promises to be equal to or smaller than existing store footprints, but serves even more customers to be the “fastest way ever to get Taco Bell.”
The Defy concept doubles down on the approach of the Taco Bell Go Mobile concept, which was launched last August and features two drive-thru lanes, one prioritized for mobile orders as well as curbside pickup with help from a concierge team of “Bellhops.”
Minneapolis in 2019 became the largest city to ban the construction of new restaurant drive-thrus due to the negatives of idling cars and traffic. The need for contactless to-go options, however, has accelerated drive-thru purchases across the country. At McDonald’s, drive-thru already represented 70 percent of sales before the pandemic and that increased to nearly 90 percent early on during the outbreak.
Many QSRs are experimenting with drive-thru only establishments, walk-up windows and other ways to speed pick-up. Panera Bread announced in late May a restaurant design that includes a double drive-thru, with one lane dedicated to mobile pickup.
Last September, Burger King unveiled two new “Restaurant of Tomorrow” designs that include triple drive-thru lanes, as well as dedicated parking spots and lockers for mobile orders. Similar to Taco Bell Defy, one design features “a suspended kitchen and dining room above the drive-thru lanes configured to reduce the building footprint, making it ideal for urban driving cities.”
- Taco Bell And Franchisee Partner To Revolutionize The Drive-Thru Experience With Taco Bell Defy – Taco Bell
- Taco Bell’s New Drive-Thru Concept Puts the Kitchen Above Your Car – Food & Wine
- Forget the double drive-thru. Meet the new Taco Bell Defy – Nation’s Restaurant News
- How Covid-19 saved the fast food drive-thru – The Counter
- Panera Bread Continues To Innovate The Fast Casual Guest Experience, Announces Plans For New Bakery-Cafe Design – Panera Bread/PRNewswire
- Burger King Unveils New Restaurant Designs for Enhanced Guest Experience in COVID World – Burger King/Business Wire
- The drive-thru of the future – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the Taco Bell Defy concept likely a winner? How do you see QSR designs evolving to meet the needs of customers in the next few years?