Drive-Thru, Drive-In, and Walk-Up

Feb 15, 2021

By: Chef Natasha Reta

Drive-ins and drive-thrus hardly seem like an innovation of our current time. Drive-in movies, drive-thru dairies, and drive-thru pharmacies have all been around for decades now. And as some counties considered limiting drive-thrus due to carbon emission levels, we were hit with a worldwide pandemic that required the public to utilize the “safety bubble” of their vehicle to receive testing, vaccines, medications, and necessary groceries.

As restaurants slowly reopen, the industry will need to shift the guest’s dining experience to protect their community’s safety and health. The need for distanced and contactless service demands increased as the public resumes “normalcy” while returning to work and under strict health guidelines. Many restaurants have utilized this time to improve their takeout and delivery and incorporate curbside or drive-thru services.


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Houston-based salad fast-casual location Salata says drive-thru has become a priority in expanding into the future. It will utilize a new mobile ordering app in hopes of facilitating an order-ahead drive-thru window.

Pokeworks is also developing a prototype drive-thru concept to fulfill third-party delivery and mobile app-based orders. The Pokeworks drive-thru lane, also known as their “Cruise Thru” lane, will not allow on-site ordering. This option will speed the pickup process for delivery drivers and customers who use the Pokeworks Rewards App. It also minimizes order mistakes and multiple contact points.

Multiple other chains have announced reinvention of their drive-thru and takeout services such as Chipotle, Sweetgreen, Burger Fi, El Pollo Loco, and La Madeleine. Checkers & Rally’s also recently announced it was testing stores with dedicated drive-thru lanes. While many chains and franchises have drive-thru prototypes in the works, several independent restaurants are challenged by their drive-thru counterparts.  Several operators have embraced the need for enhanced takeout by incorporating takeout windows for walk-up customers. Many even utilize this window to allow for a ghost kitchen pickup during off-hours of the restaurant.

This has indeed been a challenging year for us all. Still, in time of unprecedented challenges, we will utilize creative thinking and innovation to rebuild business in the restaurant industry’s ever-changing future.