03 Oct PRESS: QSR Magazine – “Test Drive”
While historians and quick-service industry veterans alike still hotly dispute the exact origin of the drive-thru window, one thing is certain: The rise of the auto industry revolutionized the fast-food business. Quick-service restaurants evolved in tandem with Americans’ growing use and purchase of the automobile—from the drive-in experience of the early ’20s and ’30s to the boom in the ’40s and ’50s of brands like
In-n-Out and Jack in the Box, which were specifically built around the drive-thru lane.
Speed of service and convenience long reigned as the platform’s biggest attractions, and though that’s not likely to change, the growing demand for premium menu items has slowed drive-thru lanes at many traditional quick-serve establishments. That’s opened the door for more premium operators, as brands like Panera Bread and Which Wich have experimented with drive-thru units in recent years to compete for market share. It isn’t business as usual for these operators, however. Premium brands, especially startup concepts, must determine how to differentiate themselves at the drive thru and deliver the same high-quality—and often customizable—experience found inside the restaurant.