Fast food is trying to give the dining room a quick death
The Future. Nearly every fast-food restaurant franchise is experimenting with getting rid of in-person dining and offering locations that only cater to mobile ordering, drive-thrus, or pick-up. The thinking is that it will be more efficient while also cutting down on costs… but it might be at the expense of the marketing and branding available inside a restaurant.
In and out
Slate serves a breakdown of the fast-food joints trashing dining areas.
- Every establishment from McDonald’s to Dunkin’ Donuts to Chipotle is opening up “digital” locations — no dining room, a focus on mobile orders and drive-thrus, and, sometimes, not even the ability to go inside to order.
- Taco Bell took the trend a step further with its Taco Bell Defy store, which is described as “a purple taco tollbooth powered by QR code readers and dumbwaiters that bring the food down from a second-story kitchen.”
- Coffee houses are also picking up on the efficiency evolution, with Dutch Bros. becoming the third biggest chain in the country despite having no seating and Blank Street taking off in NYC with a concept that rewards mobile ordering.
Wendy’s and Qdoba are just ditching the store altogether, trying out those spicy new ghost kitchens — unmarked kitchens that make food for a variety of brands.
These chains aren’t necessarily breaking new ground here — Checkers, Sonic, and Rally’s have been doing the no-dining room thing for decades — but they are responding to changing consumer behavior.
- Chipotle’s in-restaurant sales are only a third of its revenue and only 20% at Panera Bread.
- Starbucks reports that its mobile, delivery, and drive-thru features provide a third of its revenue in the US. And people spend more when they use those options.
- Every company is looking to save on real estate and labor — two things that go up with in-person dining.
But why did it shift on the customer end? COVID changed our behavior. Mobile ordering is so easy. And people get fast food to get food fast.