Drive-thru revolution pushing up demand for sites

Drive-thru revolution pushing up demand for sites

Demand for suitable sites for drive-thrus in the UK has jumped 25% since Covid hit, leading real estate company P-Three has revealed.

There are now around 2,500 drive-thrus across the UK and fast-food chains are expected to open around 200 new locations before the end of the year – with many sites already earmarked in Northern Ireland.

Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons, which already has a number of sites in Northern Ireland, plans to open at least 25 drive-thrus here in a two-year period – proof not only of the Canadian firm’s ambitions but also the growing trend for ordering food and drinks from our cars.

Much of that has been put down to the coronavirus pandemic and market researcher NPD revealed that visits to existing sites in the year to April 2021 were up by 40 million.

A ‘bunfight’ for new locations has seen suitable sites selling for £200,000 a pop, according to This Is Money, and from September to November 2020 there were 121 million visits to Britain’s 2,000 quick service restaurants (QSR) that offer drive-thru – a 14% increase on the same period last year, with spend up 45% to £723m.

Tim Hortons, which was first brought to the UK in 2017, has drive-thru offerings at half its 30-plus sites and the chains’ chief commercial officer in the UK, Kevin Hydes, said they were doing particularly well.

‘Exceptional performance’

He explained: “Despite challenging times for the sector, our drive-thru and flagship locations have delivered exceptional performance and our model is proving to be well attuned to the evolving needs of customers at this time.

“We’ve seen significant growth in drive-through lanes, and as restrictions have eased, that growth has remained.”

And more QSR chains are opening drive-thrus every day including Subway, Taco Bell and Krispy Kreme.

Among those joining the revolution in the months ahead are two huge American chains in the shape of fried chicken chain Popeyes and home of the square burger patty Wendy’s.

Wendy’s, which reported in March 2020 that drive-thru sales accounted for 90% of its US business as lockdowns bit, is returning to the UK after 20 years, hoping to steal a slice of a marketplace dominated by McDonald’s and Burger King.

In May it unveiled plans to open up to 400 outlets, creating at least 12,000 jobs – with drive thru certain to figure largely in its plans.

To read the full feature on the Price of the Protocol make sure to open the upcoming edition of Neighbourhood Retailer