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Velvet Taco cashes in on drive-thru pick-up windows

Fast-casual brand finds lanes produce digital order 25% higher than at traditional units, CEO Clay Dover says

While the drive-thru turned into golden real estate for quick-service restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, the pick-up lane has provided a lucrative avenue for fast-casual operators like Velvet Taco.

The Dallas-based brand, known for its menu of innovate taco combinations, now has five of its 22 units with to-go drive-thru pickup windows and plans more, according to Clay Dover, Velvet Taco CEO and president.

“We have seen a change in how guests are using the pick-up window,” said Dover. “Orders through the pick-up windows have almost doubled during the past year accounting for more than half our sales the past year.  In our drive-thru pick-up locations digital pick up, orders are 25% higher than our other restaurants.”

In the past month, Velvet Taco has opened three new restaurants, two of them with dedicated drive-thru pick-up lanes. In the development pipeline for the rest of this year and next, two or three more drive-thru pick-up windows are planned, Dover said.

The San Antonio Rim Crossing unit, which has a pick-up lane, broke opening-week sales records for Velvet Taco at more than $105,000.

“Only a couple of days in, but the Lubbock location is going to be great as well,” he said.

Velvet Taco’s windows are pick-up only with no order boards.

“You have to order on the Velvet Taco app, online or even call in your order,” Dover explained. “An estimated time is given or you will be texted when your order is ready to be picked up, pull through and you are handed your Velvet Tacos.  Average time at the window is 22 seconds.”

Dover said Velvet Taco’s operations team spent six months working out line flow and kitchen layout to accommodate the drive-thru windows.

“Thankfully the project was already in the works before the pandemic hit, and it has only improved ticket time and flow-through dramatically reducing ticket times,” he said. “Our vision is to continue building these pick-up windows and have [them] in more than half of our new restaurants under development, making it more efficient and easy for guests to access our tacos.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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