The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated many pre-pandemic strategies in the restaurant industry from ghost kitchens to contactless ordering.
Another trend that’s emerging amid the pandemic: smaller footprint stores geared for digital and drive-thru orders.
The latest to announce new format stores include El Pollo Loco and La Madeleine French Bakery & Café. The Dallas-based bakery-café chain, owned by Le Duff America Inc., plans to join the growing movement of brands adding drive-thru lanes to their concepts. Other chains adding drive-thru lanes include Chipotle Mexican Grill, Shake Shack, Noodles & Company and Piada Italian Street Food.
These chains, and others such as Taco Bell, Qdoba and Burger King, are introducing new store designs that cater to consumers who have grown accustomed during the pandemic to frictionless and contactless ordering.
Here’s the latest:
El Pollo Loco introduces 2 new designs
On Wednesday, Costa Mesa, Calif.-based El Pollo Loco unveiled two new prototype designs geared to meet the demands of the company’s off-premise business.
One version has no indoor dining room. Instead, it caters largely to off-premise sales with a take-out window, a dual drive-thru and curbside pickup parking spaces. It will have patio seating.
The second format store will have an indoor dining area, but it will be smaller than a standard restaurant. The dining room will have an expansive patio with garage-style doors to create a more indoor-outdoor experience, the chain said. This format store will also have a dual drive-thru lanes with digital menu boards and curbside pick-up parking spaces.
Each new format store will also have cubbies for mobile orders.
“To compete in a COVID world, we knew we needed to create a unique concept that is anchored in technology, accessibility, and modern design elements infusing our brand history to make it easier and more rewarding to be a customer,” Brian Carmichall, chief development officer at El Pollo Loco, said in a statement.
The new store runs counter to the brand’s Vision design, introduced about four years ago. That look focused a lot on interior decor upgrades such as adding Edison-style lights and large picnic-style seating.
The company said a version of the new restaurant formats will open in its core Los Angeles market in the form of remodels this month.
La Madeleine’s adds drive-thru
La Madeleine plans to build a petite bakery with a drive-thru next year in Dallas.
It would be the brand’s first ever restaurant with a drive thru lane.
The prototype restaurant, slated to open in February, will have indoor seating and a covered patio along with a selection of grab and go items such as charcuterie and snacks.
“We are excited to return to Addison and debut a refreshed la Madeleine experience that we believe will encourage our guests to return multiple times throughout the week,” Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Fox said in a statement. “Our new design is tailored to today’s consumer preferences and caters to all of our guests’ needs.”
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