Prior to the pandemic, we started to see a shift in consumers’ preference for off-premise dinning, with an uptick in drive-thru and takeout orders. Consumers with limited time were attracted to restaurants that offered efficiency and convenience. The pandemic further accelerated this already existing trend. A recent study conducted by Technomic shows that 40% of U.S. consumers are likely to go to the drive-thru, get take-out, or use delivery, even when dine-in is allowed.1
Changing circumstances have led to new opportunities, and current trends are paving the way for a future that will focus even more on hygiene, speed, and efficiency. Restaurants are taking advantage of ways to drive operations and revenue. With the right solutions in place, foodservice operators can improve operations, meet the needs of their staff and guests, and create a safer environment. New products like the Tork Xpressnap® Electronic Drive Thru Napkin Dispenser are already supporting these operational improvements and new ways of serving guests.
Many restaurants adapted quickly
Many quick service restaurants were able to adjust to this consumer behavior shift more easily because they were already set up with drive-thru services. Their existing low-touch, convenient experience for customers paid off as drive-thru orders jumped from 32% of orders in 2019 to 48% in 2020.2 By mid-April, 97% of restaurants in the United States weren’t permitted for indoor dining, according to the NPD Group. That makes the drive-thru—where 70% of McDonald’s sales have taken place during the COVID-19 pandemic globally in top markets— become existentially important.3
Many full-service restaurants (FSR) adopted a similar approach and developed curbside pickup features and, in some cases, drive-thru pickup lanes.
An emphasis on hygiene, speed, and efficiency
For drive-thrus, the focus on hygiene, speed and efficiency has never been greater. A 2020 study, conducted by SeeLevel HX, measured the drive-thru performances of 10 quick-service restaurants (QSR) based on speed, accuracy, customer service, and taste. It is no surprise that in 2020, consumers saw the greatest areas of improvement in QSR speed, service, and cleanliness among others.4
New era for drive-thru
For restaurants and their customers, there have been big changes in how to order food and where to pick it up. It’s a new era for drive-thrus, and restaurants are likely to further separate lanes and building entrances for traditional drive-thru, curbside pickup and delivery service pickups. Diversifying off-premise options can pay off. For example, for Velvet Taco, adding a drive-thru lane solely for pickups of online pre-orders enabled an increase in the production of tacos at peak time by 60%.5
More changes on the horizon
Recent trends also suggest an array of specific changes that will be in place in the future. We have seen a few chains debut new store protocols when it comes to drive thru, helping enhance the customer experience and maximize sales. Examples include:
- Shake Shack, the New York City-based burger chain introduced new stores with drive-thru and app pick up delivery lanes.6
- Burger King unveiled new restaurant designs with triple drive-thrus, burger pickup lockers, and takeout counters.7
A product that’s ready – for now and the future
For restaurant operators, being ready for the future of drive-thru will mean having the right tools available. One such tool is the new Tork Xpressnap® Electronic Drive Thru Napkin Dispenser. The Tork dispenser:
- Increases speed, as the dispensers delivers a pre-selected quantity of napkins neatly and quickly to staff.
- Ensures precision, with 16 programmable options that allow staff to adjust the napkin bundle quantities to best fit their establishment’s needs.
- Enhances hygiene, as the dispenser protects napkins and reduces the number of touchpoints.
- Is easier to use and maintain, thanks to a user instructions panel for staff, a low refill indicator LED light and viewing window, and a low battery indicator LED light that can be used either with batteries or AC power.
The Xpressnap Napkin Dispenser is easy to use and maintain. When surveyed, 98% of employees say it is easy to refill—supporting the priorities of speed and efficiency for restaurants.8 In addition, the solution also offers improved hygiene – an increasingly important factor for restaurants as they’ve increased the promotion of their hygiene practices. To support better hygiene, the dispenser has fewer touch points and lowers risks of cross-contamination because napkins stay inside the dispenser until dispensed. We’ve entered a new era for drive-thru and takeaway. Take big steps toward the future by focusing on speed, efficiency, and hygiene—fully supported by the new Tork Xpressnap Electronic Drive Thru Napkin Dispenser.
1 Survey conducted by Technomic in May 2020 with 700 respondents in the US
2 The NPD Group: U.S. Restaurant Drive-Thrus Are Proving Their Value During the Pandemic and Will Be Key to The Industry’s Future
3 Artificial Intelligence (2020): The Future of McDonald’s Is in the Drive-Thru Lane
4 See Level Human Experience: 2020 SeeLevel HX Annual Drive-Thru Study
5 Restaurant Business: How Velvet Taco Increased Throughput 20%
6 Restaurant Business: Shake Shack inches closer to opening first drive-thru
7 CNN: Here’s what the Burger King of the future will look like
8 Qualitative Research Prepared by Psyma International Feb.2020. Base: Total Drive Thru Workers (n=50). Control = Conventional dispenser napkin in a basket