Would You Drive Thru an Applebee’s?

The Applebee's drive-thru is designed to be an efficient way to pick up your riblets.

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applebee's sign
Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket (Getty Images)

I probably dont need to spell it out for you, but the pandemic’s irrevocably altered the way all of us experience restaurant dining. I have to say, my appreciation for takeout has certainly changed for the better. We’ve previously covered how Applebee’s has been considering the value of a drive-thru window for its restaurants, but it sounds like this is slowly going to become reality as the company seriously assesses logistics, reports CNN.

How will Applebee’s drive-thrus work?

There are only two existing storefronts with drive-thru windows at the moment (one in Texarkana, Texas, and one in Monroe, Louisiana) but Applebee’s president John Cywinski says there might be up to 15 by the end of the year. And these aren’t drive-thru windows with menu boards at a loudspeaker, either. The new windows will strictly be for pre-orders, either done via Applebee’s website or its mobile app. Cywinski thinks that the drive-thru windows will also help facilitate delivery drivers who’d ordinarily have to pop in the building to grab their orders.

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I’m an occasional mobile app orderer, and I have to say, it is pretty convenient. I’ll place the order, drive over to a restaurant, check in, and I’m on my way. The entire interaction is typically under 30 seconds. It doesn’t get any faster than that.

Applebee’s isn’t a place I’d initially have considered for drive-thru, ever, as Cywinski even admits. During an investor day this March, Cywinski said, “If you didn’t have 1.5 hours to dine-in and you were on the go... you’re probably thinking about McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, and maybe a burger, fries, and a Pepsi through a drive-thru window.”

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It’s pretty clear that drive-thru windows aren’t going to be installed in every Applebee’s location. The construction is contingent on the building designs themselves, in some cases (like whether or not there’s ample space), and you’ve also got to have a municipality that’s supportive of the construction. Plus franchise owners have to be cool with the changes.

Currently Applebee’s passes rising delivery costs onto customers, but at some point, it’s likely that simply grabbing your own food to go might be the more appealing option if delivery starts to cost even more.

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Hey, the pandemic isn’t over yet, not by a long shot. Things still change on a dime, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Applebee’s drive-thru is a better option than lingering around a table, munching on riblets and boneless wings, no matter how much I’ve missed dining in a restaurant.