End of the Drive-Thru?

September 7, 2019
End of the Drive-Thru?

Will drive-thrus disappear in the near future?

In Minneapolis, their demise has come.  The City Council voted to eliminate drive-thrus for new businesses, although existing businesses can continue to operate their drive-thrus.

Minneapolis had previously restricted drive-thrus in certain districts.  But, this more comprehensive ban covers all new drive-thrus.

Reasons given for the ban include impact on the neighborhood, pedestrian safety, and environmental concerns from idling cars.


Video Spotlight: Minneapolis City Council Votes To Ban New Drive-Thru Facilities


This post is based on the Fast Casual article, Drive-Thrus: Who Needs ‘Em?, by Allyson Klineman, August 20, 2019, and the YouTube video, Minneapolis City Council Votes To Ban New Drive-Thru Facilities, by CBS Local News, August 8, 2019. Image source: Photodisc/Getty Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. What should new restaurants and banks do without a drive-thru?

Guidance: The answer lies with what the customer wants from a drive-thru.  The general answer is convenience, although many drive-thrus have not been delivering on this dimension in recent years.

Several possible replacements exist.  One is that the customer can now park and enter the business.  On the inside, the business may want to set up special counters to quickly serve customers who want an order to go.  The downside is that this may require more parking spaces and more land, which is scarce in many cities.  Another downside is that some people may not want to or easily be able to leave their car, such as a parent with children in the car or those who have difficulty with mobility. Parents with small children may find it too inconvenient to make a quick trip inside a business when they have small children with them.

Restaurants could combine special counters for picking up orders, with an app to order.  Banks are already reducing the need to go to a bank with their banking apps.

Another approach would be to have employees bring orders to the customer’s car.   For restaurants, delivery services could replace the drive-thru.  New technologies may offer other methods of delivery, such as autonomous vehicles and drones.

Any of these options would change how organizations which traditionally use drive-thrus would conduct business.  In many cases, the change requires added investments in personnel and equipment.  And one size may not fit all. Replacing drive-thrus may require the use of multiple techniques to address the change.

2. Will the elimination of drive-thrus positively impact the environment?

Guidance: The answer rests with the answer to question 1.   If the replacement technique is a delivery driver and car, the answer may be no.  You may have actually increased the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted.  Other methods may reduce emissions.

3. Will the loss of the drive-thru hurt fast food restaurants that thrive on the drive-thru?

Guidance: The loss of drive-thrus could have a major impact on fast food restaurants.  For example, McDonald’s get 70% of their sales from the drive-thru.  Fast food franchises have been working hard to reduce drive-thru times.  They consider a variety of techniques, from reducing the menu, to new technologies.  The loss of the drive-thru would eliminate many of the advantages they hoped to obtain from these improvements, and make more traditional restaurants more attractive for pickup or delivery.

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