The Drive-Thru Differentiator

27 May, 2020

3 Questions to Consider Before Adding a Drive-Thru

COVID-19 has flipped the script on commercial design trends, bringing a renewed focus on drive-thrus. As a less risky method to make purchases during a pandemic, the drive-thru has become a key differentiator for retailers of all types. As many struggle with declining sales due to restrictions and stay-at-home measures, retailers are finding renewed value in their drive-thru capabilities.

At Bohler, our teams are seeing an influx of requests to add drive-thrus to existing stores. We’re also seeing projects midway through the entitlement process—even a few in construction—redesigning the project to add a drive-thru.

If you are evaluating the possibility of adding a drive-thru to your project, consider these three questions first:

1. Are drive-thrus permitted under the code?

Review the zoning code to determine if it allows drive-thrus. Also, identify any code restrictions limiting your ability to add one. This includes the required distance from other drive-thru locations, the drive-thru’s stacking needs, and menu board signage limitations.

Many jurisdictions across the country require a special exception/permit or conditional use for drive-thrus. It’s an entitlement process that welcomes public input and feedback from the governing body. Because the special permit or conditional use timeline varies widely from region to region, consult with your civil engineer. A consultant familiar with your jurisdiction’s approval processes can explain the approximate projected entitlement schedule and cost, and outline potential approval hurdles.

2. Does your site have the space for a drive-thru?

Drive-thrus often occupy a lot of space on a site. To accommodate one, you may need to reduce some of the current parking or encroach on another necessary element like a landscape buffer. If so, this may make your project non-compliant in some other aspect, causing new challenges for you.

3. How would a drive-thru work with your current internal operations?

In order for a drive-thru to be incorporated into your current premises, consider your store or restaurant’s internal layout. Would you need to renovate your building’s interior space to accommodate drive-thru sales? Evaluate how a drive-thru would impact your store’s current and future operations.

Addressing these three questions first will give you a better understanding as to whether your project is a strong candidate for a drive-thru addition. The biggest challenge with any drive-thru project is securing approvals. An experienced civil engineering consultant can guide you through the process and better outline the potential time and budget required to move forward. Your consultant can also guide you through alternatives, such as implementing curbside pickup.

Bohler has successfully completed thousands of drive-thrus across the country. To better understand if a drive-thru addition makes sense for your store, contact our local teams today.

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