The drive-thru revolution is upon us. It’s been several years in the making, with chains leaning into exclusively drive-thru concepts long before the pandemic sent consumers scurrying out of dine-in restaurants and hiding in their cars. In 2018, Chipotle started testing Chipotlanes, a drive-thru that serves solely as a mobile order pickup spot. In late 2019, Starbucks announced a new walk-up location dedicated to mobile order pickup. Last year, Taco Bell introduced Taco Bell Defy, a concept featuring a whopping four drive-thru lanes for maximum grab-and-go-ability. Now, sandwich chain Jimmy John’s is introducing its first ever drive-thru-only site.
Located in Bartow, Florida, the restaurant design is an entirely new format for Jimmy John’s. Per a press release sent to The Takeout, the location will offer “a digital-forward approach that promotes mobile order pick-up and preserves Jimmy John’s ‘freaky fast’ reputation.” Except now, the “freaky fast” onus is on the consumer. Although I suppose “freaky fast” has always been in the eye of the beholder.
Features of Jimmy John’s first drive-thru-only restaurant include:
- A dual sided drive-thru with dedicated pick-up lane for online and mobile orders (similar to the Taco Bell Defy model)
- “Carryout lockers” for an entirely contactless experience (read: no human interaction required)
- An “integrated brand experience,” whatever that means. Maybe there’ll be stickers!
The question here is whether or not Jimmy John’s will be able to maintain its signature speed and efficiency with a drive-thru-only concept. Selfishly, I worry that a drive-thru-only experience robs consumers of the opportunity to watch those sandwich artists’ fingers fly. They really are freaky fast!
Regardless, we saw this coming from a mile away. In an age when customers are still hiding out in the comfort of their tasteful sedans, more and more fast food and quick-service concepts will undoubtedly lean into modern drive-thru models—whether they’re freaky fast or not.