San Antonio–based Taco Cabana has a few brand distinctions that many of its fast-casual peers don’t enjoy: The Mexican chain has been around since 1978, and nearly all of its locations, which are open 24/7, feature a drive thru.
Todd Coerver, chief operating officer at Taco Cabana, says the brand’s drive thru accounts for 60 percent of business just like most other limited-service chains. That number has been growing as more customers look for convenient on-the-go items to eat at home, he says, adding that guests are willing to wait longer for the higher-quality offerings of fast casual.
“The last few years, we’ve actually relaxed our speed-of-service objective in the drive thru to be better at accuracy and quality in the drive-thru experience,” Coerver says. Of course, that doesn’t mean speed is an afterthought; he says Taco Cabana aims to create a speed expectation for customers, one the company can consistently hit. “The more consistent we are, the more customers can gauge their time around that idea. If they know it’s always going to be 4 minutes, then they’re OK with that.”
One key for Taco Cabana, Coerver says, is hiring the right drive-thru crewmember to serve as the face of the brand. He says the drive-thru employee should be the best worker in each location—as well as the highest-paid—because it is such a critical position.
As drive thru becomes more popular at Taco Cabana, Coerver says, the company is looking at ways to increase the investment in that operation. A new prototype design decreases dining-room seating, he says, and adds a second drive-thru lane. Employees will then be able to direct customers with a larger order to the second lane, allowing those with a smaller order to get through more quickly.
Editor's Note: Todd Coerver was named CEO of Larkburger after the Drive-Thru Study went to press.