While the coronavirus crisis has proved enormously challenging in some way, shape, or form for just about every restaurant in America, some brands have had clear advantages. Those with drive thrus, for example, have fared much better than those without due to their baked-in off-premises strategy.
As such, much attention has been paid to drive thru’s role in the future of the restaurant industry, and on the possibility of operators shrinking their store footprints in favor of a more prioritized off-premises business. Americans are increasingly ordering food to be consumed at home, and with social distancing indelibly affecting consumers’ views of public places like restaurant dining rooms, many have theorized that drive thru, curbside, and ghost-kitchen-powered delivery will become the beating heart of foodservice’s future.
For Scooter’s Coffee, that means things will be business as usual. The beverage and baked goods franchise based in Omaha, Nebraska, has grown to 275 locations since 1998 through a drive-thru-kiosk store model, which operates out of 550-square-foot boxes that easily fit in parking lots.
Scooter’s CEO Todd Graeve says the brand is fortunate to have hung its hat on the drive-thru-only model from the start, as it’s protected the brand from the worst of the pandemic and also guided it through the Great Recession. While sales dipped in late March and early April, comps were up about 17 percent over last year by late June.
Graeve adds that the simplicity to the Scooter’s model has helped its teams in these challenging times. “I am a big believer in considering simplicity and not becoming overly complex in what you deliver,” he says. “Complexity can actually stunt growth sometimes.”
Still, Graeve notes that Scooter’s is working on technological advancements like mobile ordering, and it’s even hired an engineering firm to reassess the model for any enhancements or efficiencies. And even with uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus and when things get back to some sense of normal, Scooter’s is planning to step on the accelerator in the coming years, with plans to expand to 1,000 locations.
The timing could be perfect, particularly as more potential franchisees look for efficient, off premises-friendly brands that are prepared for whatever’s on the other side of the global pandemic.
“There's no doubt in our mind that we have a model that's compelling … and it's proven itself now through in a recession and through a pandemic,” Graeve says.
For more from Graeve on Scooter’s drive-thru kiosk model, stream the podcast above.