A meal at Applebee’s usually means scoring an oversized booth in a dimly lit dining room with loud decor strewn across the walls. But the restaurant chain may be changing that image as it seeks to increase the number of its drive-thru locations.
After seeing take-out sales rise 27% during the pandemic, Applebee’s has announced it will expand testing of its drive-thru windows, according to CNN Business. Although the chain currently operates only two locations with drive-thru lanes — one in Texarkana, Texas, and another in Monroe, Louisiana — the company plans to open two more in West Columbia, SC. and Colonial Heights, Va.
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John Cywinski, chairman of Applebee, expects 15 drive-thru locations to open by the end of 2022. The company currently has 1,578 restaurants across the United States.
Unlike fast-food giants like McDonald’s and Burger King, which have outdoor menu boards and speakerphone systems, Applebee’s drive-thru requires customers to order ahead, either online or through the chain’s mobile app, and to go to the window for pickup.
According to Cywinski, 10 years ago no one would have thought of Applebee when looking for a takeout meal. However, now that the national restaurant chain is “in direct competition with [quick-service restaurants] and quick casual”, there is a greater need for another ordering option.
Additionally, Cywinski thinks drive-thru windows would streamline the delivery process for drivers who would typically drive to restaurants to pick up orders. Delivery currently accounts for about 13% of Applebee’s sales.
While it’s unclear how many restaurants will eventually have drive-thru windows, the chain intends to aggressively pursue expansion.
“We think there’s a very strong case for that,” Cywinski said. CNN Business. “We’re going to scale it, if the business case is clear. My gut tells me yes, there’s a real need.”