Ordering | November 2013 | By Christa Gala

Giving Drive Thru a Chance

Fast-casual burrito chain is one of first in the segment to add drive-thru component.

Fast casual Boloco increased sales at its first unit to include a drive thru.
Boloco upped its check average at the system’s first-and-only drive-thru unit, in Rhode Island. Boloco
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Sometimes good business decisions are made on a whim, as was the case when Boston-based fast-casual burrito chain Boloco decided to open its drive-thru location in Warwick, Rhode Island.

“We took over a former doughnut shop that had a drive thru and we thought, ‘Do we keep it or not?’” says Paul Booras, regional vice president of operations for Boloco. “We don’t have a tremendous amount of institutional drive-thru experience, but our model is built to execute quickly. We thought it could work, so we tried.”

Booras says the drive thru has become a surprising revenue driver “because our check averages are much higher at the drive thru, which we didn’t expect at all.” Drive-thru checks are, on average, between $1.50 and $1.75 higher. Booras attributes the increase to cars with multiple orders on one ticket, though it could also be the result of Boloco’s drive-thru menu change, he says.

“It’s given us the opportunity to put together a combo-style menu for the drive thru, and we don’t generally do that,” he says. “Everything is generally à la carte, and you pick what you want.”

Though results have been positive, Boloco isn’t planning any more locations with drive thrus.

Darren Tristano, executive vice president of research firm Technomic, says it’s unlikely that drive thrus at fast-casual concepts will become a trend. With burritos and similar fare, it’s more about the experience than the convenience, he says.

“Overall, I don’t think the fast-casual burrito experience, which includes that interactive and visual process, is going to lend itself to this segment,” Tristano says. ”There’s still a consumer habit or perception that these types of places at this price point are designed to go in and get the burrito.”