Why You Might Not Be Able To Dine In At New Wendy's Locations

During their Q3 earnings call, Wendy's CEO Todd Penegor said that "We have a new appetite to look at a drive-thru-only restaurant and we've got some prototypes that are going out in place to continue to test and learn on that front" (via Forbes). In doing this, Wendy's has become the latest brand in the fast food industry to consider pivoting to drive-thru-only locations. As Nation's Restaurant News noted, fast food chains see between 60 to 70 percent of their sales coming in from their drive-thru lane. The outlet gives the example of Chipotle as a company embracing this information, who have begun to experiment with "Chipotlanes," contactless drive-thru lanes where customers can pick up orders they placed earlier via the brand's app. The experiment is proving successful, and Chipotle has decided to expand these lanes to 60 percent of new restaurants.

COVID-19 spurred the drive-thru innovation further, Lisa van Kesteren, CEO of SeeLevel HX, explained to Nation's Restaurant News. As indoor dining became inadvisable, more and more customers turned to the drive-thru, forcing other brands to change their approach. One perhaps unexpected issue to arise from this is that companies will have to rethink the shape of their drive-thru lanes. CDLLife, a trucking news platform, met Wendy's announcement to open drive-thru-only locations with consternation, as removing the option of serving customers inside meant that they effectively stopped serving truckers.

Wendy's recently hired tech guru Kevin Vasconi as Chief Information Officer

The Forbes piece ends by saying they expect that Wendy's will thrive with this new drive-thru-only model because of, as they put it, "the Kevin Vasconi factor." As of mid-October, Vasconi became Wendy's Chief Information Officer. Previously, Vasconi held a similar role at Domino's, causing them to be known — in some circles anyway — as a "tech company that sells pizza." As PC Magazine wrote in 2016, Domino's decided to focus heavily on tech, with the goal that, by 2015, 50 percent of all sales would be made digitally. At the center of this initiative was Domino's AnyWare program: "Order your favorite oven-baked goodness on your favorite devices," read the website copy. This drive extend far beyond a simple app, and their website now lists compatibility with Slack, Twitter, and Google Home; along with many other platforms and devices. At the time PC Magazine's article was published, Domino's was making $2 billion in e-commerce and had seen double digit sales growth for six years straight.

This potential is very exciting, however, there is one obvious difference between the two brands — Domino's delivers while Wendy's uses third parties. Instead of changing the way customers order, Wendy's likely wants to reinvent ways for their customers to pick up the food themselves. Either way, it seems the model of sitting in fast food dining rooms is diminishing.