12 Fast Food Restaurants That Might Be Losing Their Dining Rooms Soon

Many of your favorite fast-food restaurants are building no-dining-room versions. The change isn't surprising. How often do you pass by fast-food restaurants these days without seeing anyone dining inside? Meanwhile, the line of cars reaches all the way to the street. If you decide to dine in, you almost feel as if you're doing something wrong because you're the only person inside who is not an employee. With so many people switching to ordering through the drive-through window or swinging by for a quick digital order pickup, many of the top fast-food chains are experimenting with removing dining rooms from their future building designs. This impending change doesn't bode well for those who prefer to eat our fast-food as hot as possible without resorting to eating it in the car.

We've discovered 14 fast-food restaurants that either have plans for drive-through-only or dining-room-free restaurants, or who have already opened locations without dining rooms. As you can imagine, places like Chick-fil-A are doing far better with this model than places we don't normally think of driving through, like Chipotle. Is this a change that we want? Maybe. After all, fast-food dining rooms have tables and chairs that are notoriously dirty because the employees don't have time to stop and clean them. However, only time will tell if the new dining-room-free restaurant models will eventually be in the majority rather than the minority.


Since Chipotle allows you to choose every ingredient that goes into most of its meals, Chipotle has never used a traditional drive-through window option. However, they solved the problem by inventing the Chipotlane in 2018. Customers could order digitally and then use the Chipotlane to pick up their food in under 30 seconds. The restaurant found that it was making far more money in the restaurants with a Chipotlane than without one and added them to 500 restaurants by the end of 2022. While digital sales still lag behind dining room sales for Chipotle, the chain is still earning 37.2% of its money from app and online purchases (via Restaurant Dive).

Toward the end of 2020, Chipotle decided to put its Chipotlane concept to the ultimate test by opening a Chipotle Digital Kitchen in Highland Falls, New York. It worked out well enough that they opened a Chipotlane Digital Kitchen in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, in December of 2021. Customers can either use a walk-up or drive-through window to pick up their order. While there's no inside dining, you can still eat your order on the patio. Unfortunately, both locations have abysmal reviews. Customers consistently complain about the locations not having enough people working, not getting what they ordered, and getting extremely small portions.

Del Taco

Del Taco is also jumping on the no-dining room trend. While the West-coast favorite is rolling out a few new digital-friendly designs, one of them is a 1000-square-foot version to support drive-through and digital-order pickup only. Del Taco was supposed to build its first Fresh Flex drive-through-only location in New Mexico in 2022. However, it doesn't seem to have materialized yet.

The smaller locations will have two lanes with some unique features. Those who have already made a digital order can simply scan a QR code to get food from a locker in a separate lane rather than having to wait in line behind people needing to make an order. Del Taco has also made considerations for those who don't want to eat their food cold since there's no dining room. The restaurant will still have a small parking lot where you can sit and eat your meal in peace rather than on the go.

Jimmy John's

Jimmy John's "freaky fast" guarantee to construct your sandwich in 30 seconds or less makes it the perfect candidate for the drive-through-only concept. When they realized 52% of customers were no longer ordering in the dining room in 2021 (per QSR Magazine), the idea of not having a dining room seemed more efficient. All the menu items come with specific ingredients and condiments, so it's not like you have to tell the sandwich constructor what you want on your sandwich as you do at Subway. You can just order your #9 Italian Night Club sandwich without the mayo or add cheese as you please.

Jimmy John's opened its first drive-through-only concept restaurant in February of 2022. The restaurant is in Bartow, Florida, just south of Lakeland, Florida. With this new design, customers can still expect the same 30-second sandwich guarantee as they could from the dine-in version of the store. With the chain receiving 100% more digital orders in 2000 and 13% more in 2021, they decided to add a secondary pickup lane with a food pickup locker to hurry customers through the line.

As the company no longer needs to include dining rooms or parking spaces in its designs, future franchise owners have the option of purchasing smaller, cheaper parcels of land. Rather than needing a full acre, franchise owners only need 0.6-0.7 acres of land with room enough for entry and exit access for two customer traffic lanes.


KFC has been paying special attention lately to how quickly it can get customers through the drive-through. In fact, it ditched five menu items in early 2023 just so it could streamline its menu to get people through the drive-through even faster. The drive-through is a big deal at KFC because only 30% of its customers are dining inside anymore (via Business Insider). In 2022, Intouch Insight revealed that KFC customers were getting through the drive-through line faster than at any other restaurant. However, they're still the fast-food restaurant most likely to get your order wrong.

KFC is offering two new designs for future franchisers, both of which prioritize their drive-through windows. Like other restaurants, KFC is experimenting with one Express version with no dining room. The smaller option will only take up 1300 square feet, which is perfect for franchisers who want to open in a city where it's harder to find space or where acreage is more expensive. The first was supposed to open in 2021, but none of the potential locations — including Indianapolis and West Palm Beach — have them yet.


We're not surprised that McDonald's is among the restaurants experimenting with having no dining room since only 5% of its customers are ordering through a cashier indoors anymore. The dining room is often empty because 70% of its customers are going through the drive-through — and the other 25% are picking up digital orders or ordering with the kiosk inside (via Business Insider). At the end of 2022, McDonald's revealed its first dining-room-free location would be in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. However, the design is a little different than others restaurants have envisioned.

McDonald's version of a restaurant without a dining room features a drive-through lane. However, strangely enough, it also plans to have both a lane outside for people to pick up their digital orders as well as a separate pickup shelf inside and a pickup room for delivery drivers. While you can't eat inside, you can still use a kiosk to order inside. However, there will be plenty of parking spaces outside. One innovation that McDonald's is using is allowing its app to track your progress toward the restaurant.


While it's nice to see which pastries and bagels are still available when you visit a Panera, that doesn't immediately disqualify the chain from making locations that are more geared toward to-go orders. Panera traditionally offers an inviting atmosphere where customers feel free to linger to chat, work, or unwind in cavernous dining areas. However, all the space in a 5000-square-foot restaurant is wasted in larger city locations where people are more likely to grab their food to go. Plus, half of Panera's customers now prefer making digital orders (via QSR).

For those places where to-go orders represent the majority of their sales, Panera has decided to try out a design called Panera To Go. You'll find it in larger cities where the average customer dashes in and out quickly. You can still go inside to order and pick up digital orders inside the restaurant. However, the huge dining room has disappeared in favor of a few seats at the counter. The first Panera To Go opened in New York City in 2022, with plans to open more in other cities in 2023.


At one time, you could only find Portillo's in Illinois. However, it's now among the midwest restaurant chains spreading elsewhere throughout the U.S. Still, Portillo's Pick Up made its debut in the Illinois city of Joliet in 2022. After only a month of being open, CEO Michael Osanloo said in the "A Deeper Dive" podcast that the chain is "blown away by the results" and that Portillo's Pick Up "is performing far beyond our expectations." Thus, a second Portillo's Pick Up will be open in Rosemont, Illinois, by the end of 2023.

Portillo's opened its first Portillo's Pick Up to take a load off the Shorewood, Illinois, location, which had more business than it could handle. At 3750 square feet, the building is far larger than most drive-through-only fast-food restaurants. However, it's still half the size of the standard Portillo's. The location offers three lanes: One for drive-through orders, one for people who have ordered ahead, and another Fass Pass lane for picking up orders that are ready to go. Everything from the employees' uniforms to the restaurant design is raceway-themed to remind everyone of Portillo's commitment to speedy service. The second location will also incorporate a walk-up window.


Schlotzsky's new Design 1000 restaurant design is a 1000-square-foot location that contains a drive-through lane, a mobile-pickup lane, and a walk-up window. Oddly enough, delivery drivers and people coming in to get mobile orders have to pick up their orders on the passenger side of the vehicle. Like most of the other drive-through-centric redesigns, it has no dining room. However, Schlotzsky's is also trying out a similar design with an additional 800 feet devoted to a handful of tables where customers can eat inside. The first 1000-foot version opened in Oklahoma City in 2022.

For now, it's all experimental. New franchise owners can choose from the original 3300-square-foot design or the two smaller, cheaper options. Schlotzsky's interim chief brand officer Shelley Harris said, "It'll be interesting to see where that plays out as real estate gets more expensive and more growth comes from the drive-thru from customers more interested in eating off-premise than on-premise" (via Restaurant Business Online). With the Design 1000 option now available, future franchise owners can buy smaller lots with as little as 0.6 to 0.75 acres rather than needing nearly a full acre of space.

Taco Bell

The most impressive drive-through-only model has to be the Taco Bell Defy. It reminds us a lot of the unique McDonald's restaurant that spans Will Rogers Turnpike in Vinita, Oklahoma. However, instead of straddling an interstate, this electric purple, black, and gray wonder straddles four drive-through lanes below. All the Taco Bell magic happens in the kitchens overhead while vehicles drive underneath to make or collect their orders. Instead of using pneumatic tubes like banks do to send you your money, your food comes down to you on specially-made dumb waiters.

Customers in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, were the first to experience getting their tacos and burritos at a Taco Bell Defy in June of 2022. With employees not having to mind anything but the drive-through lanes, the goal is to get food to the customer in under two minutes. With the average Taco Bell order taking 3 minutes and 41 seconds in 2022 (per Statista), two minutes is a vast improvement. Delivery drivers and customers picking up digital orders can scan in a QR code. Meanwhile, customers ordering in person can use a video chat screen to help avoid the misunderstandings common with audio-only systems.


At the newest "restaurant of the future" Wingstop locations, you can't pay with cash when you walk in, and you can't sit down. However, you can order at the counter or scan a QR code to pick up your digital order. Wings are too messy to eat in public gracefully, so 80% of customers were already picking up their wing orders to go before the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we dine (per Business Insider). Now, with almost no customers coming inside to eat, it made sense for Wingstop to create a carryout-only model. The first in the U.S. opened in Dallas, Texas, in November of 2021.

Since the new Wingstop only needs space for a kitchen, counter, pickup orders, and a small lobby, it's only 1300 square feet. ​​The restaurant design is still in a flux and experimentation phase, so the company has made all the pieces to be modular to test out what design configuration works best. "We believe we can go even smaller," Wingstop's chief growth officer, Marisa Carona told Business Insider. "This can help when we're looking at high rent and areas with high population density but little room for a large restaurant."

Burger King

Burger King was quick to embrace the changes in customer habits, unveiling two touchless designs for its restaurants in September of 2020. The new designs contain several components, allowing for walk-up and drive-through orders as well as digital order pickup areas. There's also an area where you can park and order, which reinvents the Sonic drive-in concept. However, the only place to eat is in your car or outside on a shaded patio rather than in an inside dining area.

The new concept sounds somewhat annoying because you have to download the BK app to make your order in most cases. If you don't have unlimited data, that might not be something you want to do. If you don't have the app, you can walk up to order, but that is likely to make people who are in a hurry or who don't have access to the app just decide to cross the street to buy a burger from someone who hasn't made the process as complicated. We hope they rethink this model before it goes live.

There's both a one-story and two-story concept. The one-story concept allows you to look into the kitchen through a window while the two-story concept suspends the kitchen over guests and relies on a conveyor belt to move your food downstairs to your car. While the new model was slated for roll-out in Miami, Florida, in 2021, we can't seem to find evidence it has become a reality yet.


While most fast-food restaurants trying out dining-room-free models made the decision as a result of post-2020 customer order changes, Chick-fil-A pioneered a no-dining model much earlier. Back in 2018, Chick-fil-A announced they would test out locations in Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky, without dining rooms or drive-throughs. The locations contained a 4200-square-foot kitchen with a 600-square-foot area to walk up to make an order or pick up catering, delivery, and mobile orders. The new design would eliminate drive-through lines spilling out into traffic and didn't need runners outside taking orders.

Chick-fil-A has more cars in its drive-through line on average than any other fast-food restaurant. Thus, some Chick-fil-A locations have been drive-through-only for years. However, it's only been since 2021 that the chain has embraced the model with more new redesigns. In 2021, several Chick-fil-As closed their dining rooms when they didn't have enough people on the schedule to work the front registers. Additionally, several new Chick-fil-A remodels in 2021 contained limited seating or eliminated the dining room altogether while keeping the drive-through. So, with the drive-through continuing to be a big source of business, it seems the chain is heading more toward concepts without dining but with drive-throughs. After all, they've gotten the drive-through down to an art — getting each car through the lane faster than any other restaurant in 2020, 2021, and 2022 (via Intouch Insight).