Two big trends are a foot in the world of quick-service restaurants: orders going off-premises and major chains redesigning their store formats to better meet that demand. Taco Bell is the latest major QSR player to respond to these trends. Today, the chain announced a new restaurant concept, “Go Mobile,” that emphasizes the role of digital in the restaurant experience.
Speaking in today’s press release, Taco Bell President and Global COO Mike Grams called the new format “a completely synchronized digital experience centered around streamlining guest access points.”
To that end, the new store format includes two drive-thru lanes, with one dedicated to customers that order via the Taco Bell mobile app. New technology integrated into the app will detect when customers arrive to pick up their order and direct them as to where they can retrieve the food. (Sidenote: the tech sounds like geofencing a la Panera, but Taco Bell’s press release did not use the term.) Go Mobile will also feature curbside pickup and “bellhops,” who will take orders via tablet in the drive-thru lane and at curbside.
Taco Bell also notes that this new store format will be physically smaller than its normal brick-and-mortar locations, which makes sense, given the reduced dining room capacity under which restaurant operate these days.
Other QSRs have made similar moves in the last few months. Starbucks is reformatting many of its traditional cafes to act as to-go-focused locations. Chipotle, a brand not historically known for drive-thru service, is all-in on its Chipotlanes. Shake Shack is also revamping its focus to include more drive-thrus and digital-forward experiences. Even Domino’s, which has always been an off-premises business, is revamping its format to include more curbside pickup.
Taco Bell’s first Go Mobile store is set to open in the first quarter of 2021.
Takeout, delivery, and curbside pickup are still the main formats through which these big brands can reach customers at the moment. With dining rooms still operating at reduced capacity and the future of full-service restaurants still very much uncertain, we will see more QSRs rethinking their brick-and-mortar locations to fit the off-premises style that’s become, for better or worse, the new restaurant experience.