McDonald's unveils new concept to speed up the drive-thru

ByDanielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business, CNNWire
Saturday, December 3, 2022
This is what McDonald's drive-thru of the future could look like
McDonald's is testing out new ways to help on-the-go customers get their food faster.

McDonald's is hoping a drive-thru lane with a food conveyor belt, a pickup room for delivery workers and a shelf where people can grab their orders will make life easier for customers on the go.

The features are being tested in a restaurant near Fort Worth, Texas, the burger chain announced Thursday.

Speedy service is crucial to fast food restaurants because customers may abandon a brand after experiencing long wait times. Moving customers quickly through the drive-thru is especially important because people who see a long line of cars might visit a competitor instead. Drive-thru times have gotten 45 seconds slower on average in 2022 compared to 2019 at industry-leading chains, according to this year's Drive-Thru Report by QSR and Intouch Insight.

"As our customers' needs continue to change, we are committed to finding new ways to serve them faster and easier than ever before," Max Carmona, senior director of global design and restaurant development at McDonald's, said in a statement about the new concept.

The test restaurant is smaller than most locations, designed specifically for customers who want take-out, CNN reported. Inside, there are kiosks for placing to-go orders, in addition to the pick-up shelves and delivery rooms. Outside, customers will see dedicated parking spots for curbside pickup, as well as for delivery drivers.

The order-ahead lane is for customers who placed their order using McDonald's mobile app before arrival. Once at the location, they can head to the dedicated lane, where someone at a pickup booth will confirm the order. From there, customers pick up their order from a food and beverage conveyor belt.

Driving down drive-thru times

Although drive-thru times are slower than they were in 2019, they've improved from last year, when a shortage of workers and an increase in demand for drive-thru, delivery and to-go orders sent restaurant operations into disarray.

Restaurants want to keep moving in the right direction. To that end, a number of chains are exploring new drive-thru options.

Taco Bell in June unveiled a concept restaurant with four drive-thru lanes, and orders delivered via "vertical lift" from the kitchen. Burger King has explored triple-drive thru lanes and burger pickup lockers. Applebee's tried out a drive-thru window for the first time last year. McDonald's first announced plans to improve its drive-thru in 2020.

In addition to adding drive-thru lanes and making it easier to pick up orders, restaurants have been investing in technology designed to make the experience go more smoothly, including digital menu boards and AI-enabled voice ordering.

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