“Drive-through and pickup-only is the quick-service restaurant business model of the future.” I remember having that conversation with prospective buyers in 2018 when I was selling a single-tenant Dutch Bros Coffee in Payson, Arizona. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dutch Bros, it is the largest privately held coffee company in the US. It has great coffee, provides exceptional service and is expanding like wildfire throughout the western US.
One of the many things unique about Dutch Bros Coffee is that its 400-plus locations are typically 850 sq. ft, with a small outdoor patio, and offer drive-through and/or pickup-only service. I anticipated drive-through and pickup-only would become an industry standard for quick-service restaurants (QSRs) within the next three to five years. The pandemic pushed that business model to the forefront of every quick-service executive’s mind.
It now seems like every other week there is another national QSR coming out with a restaurant prototype that has a much stronger focus on drive-through, pickup, and online carry-out services. Brands like McDonald’s, Chipotle, Taco Bell and many others have come out with drive-through and pickup-only restaurant prototypes that are 1,200 sq. ft or less. This strategic move makes sense. It allows these companies to focus on their top revenue-producing asset – the drive-through – while expanding their real estate potential and lowering their net investment costs.