Americans love restaurants with a drive-thru. As of mid-2022, 75% of sales at quick service restaurants (QSR) were drive-through. I’ve appraised several proposed Starbucks locations where Starbucks has opted to close its in-line store and build a free-standing store with drive-thru access within eyesight. A local Chick-fil-A franchisee in the Richmond market recently demolished its existing store and rebuilt it to optimize vehicle stacking for drive-thru customers. If you take the figure above at face value, this makes sense. Drive by any Starbucks during your morning commute or a Chick-fil-A during peak meal time, and you’ll understand the importance of drive-thru access.

I worked closely with a Zaxby’s franchisee on an appraisal a couple of years ago. He explained that it isn’t uncommon for a customer to go through the drive-thru at one of his stores—sometimes waiting behind several cars, only to purchase a single piece of garlic toast. Stacking matters if you have a vehicle taking up valuable drive-thru space to buy a piece of bread.

Starbucks is well suited for a drive-thru format. Drinking coffee while driving is hassle-free compared to offerings at other QSRs. I don’t understand the appeal of eating food purchased through a drive-thru. We’ve all done it. Eating in a vehicle is a terrible experience. It’s messy—especially with kids—and your interior will smell weird for the next 48 hours. This may explain the proliferation of drive-thru car washes with free vacuums.

Everyone has attempted the move where you take your food out of the bag and flatten it to create a placemat for your lap, only to realize later that the bag has already been soaked with grease. I have an unreasonable aversion to stains. Few things are worse than ruining your pants, except doing it when running so late to an appointment that you attempted to eat while driving.

A free business plan for Gap, Kohl’s, or any other clothing retailer:

  1. Locate any area with four or more QSRs, preferably one with a Chick-fil-A, because they sell a lot of chicken.
  2. Map the traffic pattern to determine where customers travel after leaving.
  3. Build a store selling business casual clothing about five miles away, preferably with a drive-thru.

May 17, 2023