America’s biggest chain fast-food restaurants are changing how they operate. Responding to the changing consumer behavior during the pandemic, stores are delivering food, but in a new way. Takeout food is now often ordered ahead via online and apps. To respond to the new ordering process, restaurants are eliminating seats and expanding drive-through service.
For example: A new McDonald’s restaurant in Texas has no seats or tables for customers. Instead, a conveyor belt sends food to drivers who have ordered ahead. And it’s not just McDonald’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Taco Bell are also considering new formats including a four-lane drive-through.
Why the new strategy? Building operations around large drive-through and digital orders can reduce staff and make the sites more profitable and efficient. America saw takeout foods rise during the pandemic. In 2022, 85% of all food orders as fast-food locales were taken to-go instead of eaten onsite.
Even Starbucks, long known for being a place to meet and linger, plans to add roughly 400 stores that offer delivery and pickup only. Why? Starbucks cafes are often jammed with orders for pick-up, drive-through, delivery, and in-café, leaving customers unsatisfied with the long lines.
What would you like for dinner tonight?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Discuss the changing takeout habits of the students. What do they like? Dislike?
- Poll students: Who has switched to mostly takeout? How do they place orders?
- Show video of new McDonald’s: https://youtu.be/S-uAsMf1__E
- Discuss the importance of environmental scanning: technology trends, social trends, laws and regulations, competitive trends, and economic trends.
- What trends are these restaurants responding to?
- Have students outline a promotional plan for communicating the value of the new concepts.
- Optional: Have students go to a fast-food restaurant (such as McDonald’s) and observe (a) how people order, and (b) how many people eat at the restaurant (versus leaving with the order).
Source: Haddon H. (28 January 2023). Americans are gobbling up takeout food. Restaurants bet that won’t change. Wall Street Journal.