Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants were working hard to ensure that paying customer would have to interact with as few human beings as possible. Drive-thru, always a popular option for fast food, was being explored by fast-casual and sit-down restaurants.
“Prior to the pandemic, what constitutes a restaurant was already rapidly changing,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association, told Today. “In our Restaurant Industry 2030 Report, we forecast that the off-premises market—carryout, delivery, drive-thru and mobile units—would be where the majority of industry growth would come from over the next 10 years.” COVID just sped up the process a bit. While many restaurants improvised no-contact delivery methods, others, notably Applebee’s, have begun to build new locations with drive-thru windows.
Shake Shack has also started to test a new three-lane drive-thru model to accommodate on-the-spot orders as well as mobile and curbside pick-up. The first will be in Orlando, and the chain plans to have between five and eight in operation by the end of 2022.
There is no word on if or how these restaurants will figure out ways to keep their food hot and the fried stuff crispy. I really hope they figure it out, because it will be a sad world if we’re all alone in our pajamas with nothing but soggy fries to comfort us.