During the pandemic, drive-thrus were a lifeline for many restaurants, employees, and diners looking to maintain social distancing.
So why is KFC shutting them down?
In a survey cited by KFC, the time spent in its drive-thru lines was 6 minutes and 30 seconds in 2021. This is, arguably, a long time to wait for a bucket of chicken, and KFC has concluded that it is frustrating customers and discouraging passersby from getting in line.
To alleviate both drive thru and inside lines, the chicken chain has launched Quick Pick-Up, which will allow customers to order ahead via website or app. When they pick up their order, they park in a dedicated spot, walk into the restaurant, grab their order off a shelf, and take it home to enjoy.
If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is — Sweetgreen and Chipotle both use similar systems. And while KFC is certainly not the first fast food chain to take a new approach to drive-thrus, its competitors are investing in them rather than circumventing them.
Taco Bell, for example, is quite literally doubling down on its drive-thrus. The chain is reducing the size of its dining rooms, and relying on its app to reduce face-to-face interaction between diners and employees.
Burger King will soon implement 40,000 digital menu screens that will offer contactless payment and use predictive selling technology and other features aimed at increasing sales while reducing time in line.
For many, fast food chains are synonymous with convenience, speed, and drive-thrus. So KFC may be taking a risk by asking its customers to walk across the parking lot, especially when the rest of the industry is encouraging customers to stay in their cars.
Time will tell if KFC is offering a combo that customers will want to order.
Danilo Diazgranados is an independent investor in the global food and wine, financial services, real estate, and the hospitality sectors.