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It used to be that speed of service was the most important part of the drive thru. But times have changed. Since the advent of the modern quick-service drive thru—some would say in the early s, though the idea of a pick-up window has been around for much longer—operators have tinkered with the nuts and bolts to create a drive thru that is as fast, efficient, and pleasant as possible.

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Added: Elda Gidney - Date: The brands that are emerging strongest from the coronavirus pandemic are those with drive thrus. Kyle Welch had only owned Epic Burger for about 10 months by the time the coronavirus outbreak paralyzed the U. A Little Caesars and Cold Stone Creamery franchisee, Welch had acquired the Chicago-based better-burger brand in May as a way to be more hands-on with a brand, one not too far from his Michigan hometown.

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He spent enhancing the business from a technology standpoint, working with his team to install a new POS system, integrate the third-party platforms, and develop a new mobile app. They even made some operational changes to get service times down from 9—11 minutes to 3—4. Then the pandemic struck. The company needed to pivot, and quickly. The team marked out queue lines and staffed it with an order taker powered by a Looking to meet up today thrus POS. We got it out there and we just turned this parking lot into a drive thru, and it worked, and it's incredible.

It also proved that the drive-thru operation was the perfect solution to conquer an unprecedented challenge—and that it could be more than just a fast-food staple for the foodservice industry of the future.

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Like Welch and Epic Burger, other quick-serve and fast-casual operations quickly developed de facto drive thrus once dining rooms were forced to close after the COVID outbreak. Take Chicken Salad Chick as an example. Cars could pull up to the tent and place their order with the employee, and then another team member would run their food out. Indeed, empty parking lots across the country suddenly became rife with opportunity in the wake of the pandemic. Tablets have already become commonplace in the industry, particularly for line-busting during rush hour.

All of that is surely why brands of all stripes have started talking seriously about drive thrus, both as temporary solutions and as long-term strategies. Michelle Bythewood, president of Houston-based salad fast casual Salata, says drive thru has become a priority for future expansion.

The brand just announced a new mobile ordering app, which will help facilitate an order-ahead drive-thru window; already the unit system has a handful of locations with this strategy in place. Because you could do the same process of Looking to meet up today thrus customer parking and walking up and grabbing it. I just think the new norm will be thinking through those types of conveniences for our guest. Indeed, restaurant companies are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to off-premises innovation. Early in the pandemic, FreeRange instituted curbside pickup in what Noonan thought would be a Band-Aid for a few weeks, but it was so successful that he says the company would reengineer its restaurant layout to make curbside a permanent fixture.

Because the fast-food operators are just seeing a small decline. Some are up. So that can be a model going forward if, God forbid, something like this ever happens again and we just switched to that drive-thru model. Juan Martinez, principal at foodservice industrial engineering firm Profitality, says anyone who can execute a drive thru today should do it. The major chains are, too.

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Just take Starbucks as an example; the coffee behemoth has struggled mightily during the pandemic, with the company announcing during its Q3 earnings report in July that U. In May, CEO Kevin Johnson announced that Starbucks was expediting a plan to relocate low-performing units to real estate that could utilize drive thru. And then during the call reporting Q3 earnings in July, Johnson said the company was instituting line-busters with mobile POS devices in Starbucks drive thrus to accommodate the boom in demand.

Forget the double drive-thru. meet the new taco bell defy

Chipotle also announced its intentions to prioritize drive thru moving forward. The Mexican fast casual had launched its Chipotlane model ina distinct change in strategy for the brand that was ushered in shortly after CEO Brian Niccol came over from Taco Bell. Earlier this year it opened its th Chipotlane unit, and 21 of 37 new locations in the second quarter included the drive thru. He added that sales at the 13 Chipotlane restaurants in the comp base were 10 percent higher than non-Chipotlane restaurants open for the same period, and that sales at newer drive-thru locations were 30 percent higher.

So we think the opportunity to move more Chipotlanes over the next three to five years is pretty encouraging.

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Whereas drive thru had ly been anathema to fast-casual brands whose leaders pledged their concepts were a level above quick service, the category had already started its about-face before the pandemic. Along with Chipotle, Washington, D. But the pandemic may have been the final push some Looking to meet up today thrus needed to go all in on drive thru.

Shake Shack announced during its Q1 earnings report that it was exploring how it could transition existing locations to more off-premises-friendly operations, including by adding windows for walk-up and drive-up capabilities. Renderings of what the new drive-thru prototype could look like show multiple drive-thru lanes and parking spots for curbside pickup, along with mobile-order pickup stations inside.

Garutti said during the Q2 earnings call that the company hopes to create new access points for customers and new real estate opportunities for the brand. And drive thru inevitably had to be a part of that. But obviously, this country has proven that the drive thru in its old form works.

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We want to do [it] in this new form. We want to do it better than ever. For one, mobile devices allowed brands to develop order-ahead platforms that opened a new path for drive thru; that was the nudge that brands like Chipotle and CAVA needed to invest in the operation. Secondly, digital menuboards and artificial intelligence have streamlined some of the more clunky aspects of the drive thru and given restaurants the ability to re-examine labor deployment.

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He adds that for too long quick serves have avoided directing guests to parking spots to fulfill bigger or more complex orders, but that this action is necessary to help keep the window humming. Ultimately the goal is to set the drive thru up for success on the back end, Martinez says. The future of the drive thru, Martinez adds, is something similar to what Shake Shack is accomplishing with its new prototype, where there are multiple lanes, multiple pickup points, and everything is powered by technology. In addition, he recommends operators start talking with landlords about securing four or five parking spots for curbside pickup.

And while ghost kitchens have a role to play, Jay points to the fact that a large portion of the population will be uncomfortable not knowing where their food comes from, thereby proving a need for a physical footprint. In September, Burger King revealed a new prototype that boasts dedicated mobile-order and curbside pickup areas with coded food lockers, drive-in parking spots, walk-up order windows, multiple drive-thru lanes, and exterior dining spaces.

Inside the New Era for Drive Thru. Drive Thru October Sam Oches. Drive thrus have proved to be a huge advantage during the Covid crisis because they allow for easy off-premises dining and social distancing. How Off-Premises is Changing Everything. Future Ordering Expectations. A necessary pivot Like Welch and Epic Burger, other quick-serve and fast-casual operations quickly developed de facto drive thrus once dining rooms were forced to close after the COVID outbreak.

Drive Thru. Fast Food. Employee Management. Emerging Concepts. What Wellness Means Now for Restaurants.

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Business Advice. Nurturing the Vendor-Operator Relationship. Menu Innovations. Restaurants Put Climate Change on the Menu. Customer Experience. Convenience: The Pandemic-Proof Trend. Restaurant Operations. Fast Casual. Consumer Trends. Franchising in a Nearly Post-Pandemic World.

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