231-922-9460 | Google +

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Drive-Through's Gain Popularity and Drive Profit

Story first appeared in USA Today.

Sorry Ronald McDonald, but the drive-through isn't just for feeding Big Mac attacks anymore.

The fast-food drive-through is spilling into the world of designer coffee, convenience stores and fast-casual chains such as Panera Bread.

Thanks, in part, to these new avenues, drive-through sales, which slowed during the recession, are growing. Sales were up 3% in 2011, and up 2% in 2010, after falling 1% in recession-fed 2009, according to a report from researcher NPD Group, to be released Tuesday. Last year, some 12.4 billion consumers visited fast-food drive-throughs, a 2% traffic increase over the prior year, NPD says.

For the consumer, it's all about time and convenience. But for the restaurant, it's also about the bottom line. Which explains why drive-throughs are stretching into new territories:

•Fast-casual. At Panera Bread, one of the nation's most successful fast-casual chains, the drive-through is evolving into a serious moneymaker. Seven years after testing its first drive-through, Panera is now building them into 20% to 30% of its new locations. Roughly half of Panera's drive-through sales are incremental, he estimates. For folks with kids in the car, it's not always convenient to walk into a Panera. Drive-throughs aren't bad. What's bad is doing them poorly in a mechanized way with processed food. By the end of 2012, Panera will have roughly 200 drive-throughs, offering every item on the Panera menu — even paninis.

•Designer coffee. Starbucks opened its first drive-through coffee shop in Vancouver, Wash., in 1994. Today, it has nearly 2,500 domestically. Drive-through allure can even have an environmental twist.
In February, Starbucks opened a "Reclamation" drive-through in Seattle. It's made from four giant shipping containers that typically end up in scrap yards.

•Convenience stores. Drive-throughs are just beginning to show up at "a few hundred" of the nation's 148,000 convenience stores. Those passing through some Pak-A-Sak drive-throughs in Amarillo, Texas, may be unduly influenced by Fido. Every canine in the car gets a free doggie treat.

For more national and worldwide Business News, visit the Peak News Room blog.
For more local and state of Michigan Business News, visit the Michigan Business News blog.
For more Health News, visit the Healthcare and Medical News blog.
For more Electronics News, visit the Electronics America blog.
For more Real Estate News, visit the Commercial and Residential Real Estate blog.
For more Law News, visit the Nation of Law blog.
For more Advertising News, visit the Advertising, Marketing and Media blog.
For more Environmental News, visit the Environmental Responsibility News blog.
For information on website optimization or for the latest SEO News, visit the SEO Done Right blog.