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Starbucks, Taco Bell, Chipotle: The $290 billion race for the perfect drive-through

During COVID-19, dining rooms have closed, and many prudent people have avoided dining in restaurants altogether. It’s a heartbreaking situation for independently owned restaurants across the country, as countless mom and pops have closed their doors never to open again.

Meanwhile, fast-food and fast-casual chains have seized the opportunity to claim the market and expand their reach. Overall revenue has still taken a roughly 30% nosedive across the board in 2020, in an industry estimated to be worth $290 billion domestically. But McDonald’s same-store revenue (the revenue at each individual store) is down a mere 2.3% in June from April. Popeye’s reported same-store growth of nearly 25%, as its chicken sandwich continues to lure diners in. A major reason? The drive-through window.

While drive-throughs have been a staple of fast-food revenue for decades, representing 65% or more of a store’s revenue, they’ve only become more popular in 2020. According to one recent poll, 74% of Americans have visited a drive-through the same amount or more often than usual this year.

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