However, it’s also a signal to Wendy’s dine-in customer. Removing delivery traffic from the drive-thru will speed up in-store service, too, Pringle says, “benefitting customers with shorter wait times in line.” The same is true of redirecting delivery order traffic away from the front counter. “This ensures the crew are focused on taking and fulfilling dine-in customer orders quickly, efficiently, and accurately,” Pringle says. “Less traffic at the POS also makes it easier for our digital customers to quickly locate their orders on the new integrated front counter grab-and-go shelving.”
What it all does, dressed down, is make it easier for employees to focus on creating positive guest experiences, and to humanize what’s become a transactional event in countless quick-service circles.
“Dine-in service looks different than it did just a few years ago, and customer preferences have changed,” Pringle says. “To meet our customers where and how they want to enjoy Wendy’s, we offer a variety of ordering options including through kiosks and the Wendy’s App. For those customers who order ahead, mobile pickup spots and grab-and-go shelves make it quick and easy to retrieve orders. These options allow customers to interact with us using the platform of their choice.”
At this turn in the COVID bounceback, Pringle says drive-thru remains strong. The pandemic heightened a shift the brand was already seeing, and which has been widely true across quick-service’s largest players—a migration from dine-in to drive-thru. She anticipates preferences for mobile ordering and delivery to continue growing. But even so, it’s not a point that’s going to pull focus from dining rooms altogether. Wendy’s sees the landscape as an opportunity to bring more Wendy’s to more people in more ways, Pringle says, and use those channels to inspire future visits. “With each technology advancement, new partnership, and market entry, we’re continuously optimizing the way we serve our customers,” she says.
The segment definition
Shake Shack launched what it terms “Shack Track” at the start of the pandemic. CFO Katie Fogertey says the brand saw how many of the fast pivots from the early days of COVID had become permanent functions, including implementing multi-channel delivery, enhancing digital pre-ordering, and expanding Shake Shack’s fulfillment capabilities. Shack Track wasn’t a one-face solution—it’s an acknowledgment of the choice guests now have.
Shack Track includes pickup shelves, curbside pickup, pickup windows, and drive-thru units, of which 11 operated as of January, with 10–15 more on deck for 2023. “The need to enhance and alter the physical restaurant to meet the needs of digital was so important to Shake Shack that today, all new restaurants we open have some aspect of Shack Track,” Fogertey says.
This is an especially revealing development at a fast casual like Shake Shack, which was founded by Michelin-starred restaurateur Danny Meyer. Once the chain evolved from hot dog cart to brick-and-mortar, it crashed preconceived notions of what quick-service experience could look like for a changing generation of consumers. More inviting and modern elements. Agile real estate. Food that took a bit longer to come out but sold its product on ethos and quality.
None of those playbooks have wilted; Shake Track is just the manifestation of what Fogertey calls, “convenience without compromise.”
“Shack Track aims to tackle many challenges that have arisen from building a rapidly growing digital business while maintaining our commitment to the traditional dine-in business,” she says. “We wanted to be able to provide our restaurants and team members the tools to best handle the increase in digital sales. We worked hard over the past two-and-a-half years to identify opportunities to improve the overall omnichannel guest journey as well as the work of our team members.”
Like others, Shake Shack watched off-premises surge across 2020 and into 2021. But its gains today are coming from customers walking into stores, Fogertey says. “Which is great for our business.”
And thanks to investments made outside the four walls, the Shake Shack customer today has more points of access than ever. Guests can download the app and skip the line. Ordering ahead for pickup has proven a sizable time saver, Fogertey says. It streamlines what’s often a busy and crowded order line as well. “This also provides us with a unique opportunity to communicate with our guests on a much more personal level that we didn’t have prior to our digital business,” she says.
Last year alone, Shake Shack appreciated more than a million app downloads. Come Q3, 4.5 million guests had made a first-time purchase in the chain’s owned digital channels. “But, our digital journeys go beyond the app,” Fogertey says. “We also anticipate seeing more guests interacting with our kiosks. A good portion of guests prefer them over traditional cashiers when given the choice, as they’re fun to explore and visually helpful when it comes to customizing a menu item. Our app and kiosk are also helpful tools for our team members, as they allow our team members to focus more on guest service and hospitality.”