KFC unveiled two new designs today for future stores that emphasize off-premises order formats and minimal dining room space, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. The Louisville, Kentucky-based chain is the latest major QSR to revamp its store format in response to the pandemic’s impact on the restaurant industry.
One design is for an “express” store format with no indoor dining space. Clocking in at about 1,300 square feet, the design is intended for use in crowded urban locations where space is both limited and expensive. This is a tactic also used by chains like Starbucks and, most recently, Chipotle.
KFC’s other design is all about the drive-thru, which the company said grew 60 percent year-over-year in Q3 of 2020. The format includes multiple drive-thru lanes, including those dedicated to mobile orders, a small outdoor seating area, and designated parking spots and entrances for customers and delivery drivers picking up digital orders.
These new prototypes have actually been in development since last year. Chief Development Officer Brian Cahoe told NRN today that the company hit the “pause” button on these projects when the pandemic hit in order to learn and apply new requirements the pandemic would bring to the restaurant experience.
More obvious safety measures are one thing. The new KFC stores will include automatic doors and more space between tables. And of course, with the emphasis on digital ordering, a more contactless pickup or drive-thru experience is also on the menu. The company said some stores would also have a digital cubby system in future.
The QSR has in the last couple months become ground zero for testing out new restaurant tech. Besides digitizing the drive-thru, which everyone from McDonald’s to Tim Horton’s is doing, brands are introducing features like geofencing, conveyer belt meal delivery systems, and AI-powered menu boards to the restaurant experience. Many are also ditching the dining room in favor of drive-thru-only locations and ghost kitchen facilities.
KFC will open three new restaurants based on these prototypes in 2021.