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The Comeback of Drive-Thru Experiences

The Comeback of Drive-Thru Experiences

The Comeback of Drive-Thru Experiences

Restaurant trends at the COVID-19 time

With social distancing now being a necessity, restaurants, movie theaters, retailers, and other experiences that rely on in-person seating have looked for creative ways to bring in customers safely. Cars, which can acts as personal pods away from separating patrons into their own spaces, are an accessible way to practice safety guidelines. 

Curbside pickup has grown in response to this trend, with an increase in usage by more than 200 percent from April 2019 to April 2020, according to adobe.

But incorporating cars can go beyond delivery pickup. In fact, in an effort to maintain the feeling of in-person customer experiences, businesses have started to leverage a little bit of nostalgia, bringing back drive-ins and drive-throughs that were popular decades ago and making them fresh again. With everything old starting to become new again, we took a look at the history of drive-ins and drive-thrus, and how they are being remade to engage with modern customers.


In the 1940s, a few restaurants started to offer drive-thru service. However, In-N-Out Burger in California is credited as being the first to offer the complete service with an intercom system and no indoor dining space or parking lot. Since then, most fast-food restaurants have added a drive-thru to their operation, and businesses such as banks or pharmacies have also built drive-through services as part of their customer convenience.

While a drive-in involves the customer parking and enjoying the show or meal, a drive-thru keeps the action moving. Today, however, the drive-thru is being used to create immersive experiences that also entertain customers from a distance. For example, the hospitality tech platform Resy reinvented the traditional drive-thru dining experience by sponsoring a drive-thru 10-course dining event in Los Angeles, featuring some of the area’s best chefs and restaurants. Customers got to experience a progressive dinner from the safety of their vehicles.

An art gallery in Brazil, for example, created a drive-thru exhibit built in a shed with QR codes that visitors can scan to get audios that explain the works as they move through the circuit. The Richmond Raceway Complex created Jurassic Quest Drive-Thru Experience which features 70 moving, life-like dinosaurs for an exciting family adventure. And zoos across the country are borrowing from the safari model, attracting customers by creating drive-through exhibits with food and beverage options.

Leveraging the trend

Depending on your business, a drive-thru or drive-in strategy could improve your customers’ experiences with your brand. While many consumers are feeling safer in their cars, they’re also looking for unique experiences they can do while staying distanced.

These new types of drive-ins and drive-thru may or may not become permanent fixtures in the market after the pandemic, but what will last are the memories they can create. By being a business that isn’t afraid to pivot and change with the times, you can show your customers that you are willing to adapt to the experiences they are looking for, giving them a refreshed taste of nostalgia in the process.

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