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English Español NACS Show: Drive-thru innovations stand to yield long-term benefits for c-stores

Site layouts and store designs are evolving as chains incorporate app-driven carhop and drive-thru services, dramatic architectural changes, EV charging stations and more, notes Joseph Bona in online presentation for NACS.

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New approaches to drive-thru service have helped c-store and QSR chains adapt to the pandemic—and they stand to yield big benefits far into the future, said Joseph Bona, Principal & Founder of Bona Design Lab, in an online presentation for the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

But as c-store chains seek to emulate drive-thru and curbside innovations by pure QSR operators, they will need to pay close attention to the effects of a unique set of site-related constraints, Bona told the audience in the Nov. 9 session for NACS’ “Crack the Code Experience.”

“C-store sites, with their gas pumps and limited lot sizes and parking areas, are just set up differently than those for QSR-only operations,” Bona noted. “For example, if you add curbside pickup, you will lose even more parking. So it can be difficult, though not impossible, to add another layer of circulation onto our existing sites. The key is for each retailer to think carefully about whether drive-thru service is right for them.”

And as noted by Bona’s co-presenter Dan Munford,nof U.K.-based Insight Research, the massive demand for drive-thru service can create challenges for QSR chains in areas such as menu-planning, operations and staffing.

In fact, Bona added, the huge increase in drive-thru demand has added an extra 30 seconds to the average wait time per person at some c-stores and QSRs. “Imagine being the fifteenth person in the line,” he said. “From order to pick-up, that’s a lot of extra time.”

Examples of this new service are American operators such as Burger King, Starbucks and Shake Shack; the U.K.’s EG Group; Australia’s OTR (“On The Run”) and the DRIVU app in the United Arab Emirates.

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