The Fast Food Revolution

January 29, 2023

McDonald’s has a new Texas restaurant with no tables or seats or bathrooms for customers and a conveyor belt that routes food to drivers who order ahead. Chipotle also offers no place for customers to sit inside an Ohio restaurant that only takes digital orders. Taco Bell is evaluating a new design that features 4 drive-through lanes, double the typical two. Starbucks,  which long described itself as a “third place” for customers to gather after home and work, plans to add 400 U.S. stores with only delivery or pickup service in the next 3 years.

Taco Bell is testing a 4-lane drive through in Minnesota

America’s biggest restaurant companies made a bet during the pandemic that you would rather eat the food cooked on their premises someplace else. Now they are gambling you will want to do so for years to come. The strategy from these giant chains is to orient their operations around drive-throughs and online ordering while testing new restaurant concepts that only serve food to go, reports The Wall Street Journal (Jan.28-29, 2023). They say these designs will make them more profitable and efficient since restaurants that bring fewer customers inside cost less to build, maintain and staff.

Of all orders placed at U.S. fast-food restaurants in 2022, 85% were taken to go. That is down from a high of 90% during 2020 but up from 76% prepandemic. Among full-service restaurants, 33% of orders were to go in 2022— double prepandemic rates.

The concept of taking food and beverages to go took root in the years after World War II, as Americans embraced an automobile culture. In the 1970s the industry fully bought into the to-go idea. Wendy’s introduced its “pick-up” window in 1970, with the first McDonald’s drive-through in 1975. (90% of McDonald’s business is now drive-through).

The most distinctive feature of the new McDonald’s in Texas is an automated delivery system for customers who order ahead on an app. When you pull up to the window in the “order ahead” lane, a conveyor delivers your food with help from a robotic arm that pushes the bag out to the waiting car. Starbucks’ CEO has acknowledged its cafes now are often clogged with pick-up, drive-through, delivery and cafe orders all at once. The result: long lines and frustrated customers.  His plan is 700 more U.S. stores in the next 3 years with drive-throughs as the primary means of sales.

This post provided courtesy of Jay and Barry’s OM Blog at www.heizerrenderom.wordpress.comProfessors Jay Heizer and Barry Render are authors of Operations Management , the world’s top selling textbook in its field, published by Pearson.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s