Soon you may be able to eat good in the neighborhood without ever leaving your car.
Applebee's has added a drive-thru to some of its locations, and more are coming. It's a pivot to capture the ever-expanding market share of takeout orders, which have grown to a whopping 27% of the chain's business because of the pandemic, despite dine-in resuming. That's led to same-store sales increasing 6.2% in 2021 compared to 2019, the chain's first increase since 2015.
Right now, the only locations with a drive-thru are in Texarkana, Texas, and Monroe, Louisiana, but two more will be opening within weeks in South Carolina and Virginia. About 15 Applebee's should have drive-thrus by the end of this year.
Still, they operate a little differently than a fast-food drive-thru. Don't expect to roll up and place your order on the spot. They also don't have any kind of menu board, or even multiple windows. They're strictly for picking up orders customers placed online or over the phone. Third-party delivery drivers for services like DoorDash or GrubHub can also use them.
If all goes well, more Applebee's franchisees are likely to add drive-thrus as well. There are some obstacles along the way, though. Franchisees will have to convince local municipalities to allow a drive-thru where one wasn't in the original plans. Plus, the cost is nothing to sneeze at — a steep $100,000.