Life in the Fast-Food Lane: Restaurants Add Drive-Thrus Across the Country
Jack in the Box Chief Executive Leonard Comma knows his fast-food chain’s sales are dependent on drive-thru lanes. That’s why he said his company is investing as much as $45 million the next three years on digital menu boards and canopies to make the experience faster and more personal.
Quick-service purveyors across the national and Philadelphia commercial real estate market such as Starbucks Corp. and Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. are also changing how they view their real estate by collectively spending tens of millions of dollars to let people eat in their cars as customers increasingly demand speed and convenience.
This Co-Star Research report involving U.S. and Philadelphia commercial properties is being made through Philadelphia commercial real estate broker Wolf Commercial Real Estate, a Philadelphia commercial real estate brokerage firm.
Drive-thru lanes contribute more than 70 percent of San Diego-based Jack in the Box’s sales, Comma said during a recent earnings call concerning the U.S. commercial real estate market – including Philly office space, Philly retail space and Philly industrial space. “They represent a sizable sales opportunity,” he said.
Modern drive-thru technology has been around since the 1940s but came of age in “car-crazy California” in the 1950s, according to the National Museum of American History, which noted that by the 1970s “major fast-food franchises nationwide began to install drive-thru windows.”
The concept has never been more popular.
A study by trade publication QSR Magazine found that most fast-food chains among national and Philadelphia commercial real estate properties report about 70 percent of their sales happen at a drive-thru window, saying “the outdoor lane is just as important today to quick-service business as ever before – if not more so.”
Starbucks, which said in its Nov. 1 earnings call that it plans to build 600 new locations across North America in 2019, adding to its roster U.S. and Philadelphia commercial real estate listings, is expanding a push it began last summer to equip about 80 percent of all new stores with a drive-thru lane. Many of those won’t have interior seating, resulting in a much smaller store footprint.
Drive-thru, out-the-window and mobile-order-and-pay combined accounted for more than 50 percent of all orders in the U.S. commercial real estate market, including Philly office space, Philly retail space and Philly industrial space, in the past three months, up more than 10 percentage points in two years, Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Rosalind Brewer said.
“Last quarter, our stores with drive-thru well outperformed our café comp,” Brewer said. “This format will be a continued focus into 2019.”
Last summer, Seattle-based Starbucks said sales were 25 percent to 30 percent higher at stores with drive-thru lanes. Competitor Dunkin’ Brands Group, based in Canton, Massachusetts, said the drive-thru restaurants among its national and Philadelphia commercial real estate listings boast 40 percent higher sales volume.
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