The Big Change Coming To New KFC Locations

On November 18, it was announced that KFC would join the trend of contactless drive thrus. CNN reported on the reveal of two new future designs which will phase out the "American Showman" model that had spread to include 40 percent of KFC franchises by August 2019. One, presumably fashioned for an urban environment, removes the dining room area. The other will prominently feature its drive thru while also including a "Colonel's Porch," an interior dining room smaller than the ones currently offered by KFC.

These new designs will be prototyped in West Palm Beach, Indianapolis, and Central Kentucky in 2021.

The spur for this evolution, as Hospitality & Catering News posits, is probably the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the third financial quarter of 2020, KFC saw $7 billion in revenue due to their drive-thrus, which grew by 60 percent during that period. KFC's decision to reorganize their approach around the model not only provides the most profit but also ensures the most stability in a environment hostile to dining out makes perfect business sense.

Picking up on the drive-thru

In their piece announcing KFC's experiments, QSR notes that the model KFC is pursuing has been used by many others as well, including Taco Bell, McDonald's, Shake Shack, Chipotle, Burger King, Wendy's, and Qdoba. As the CNN piece puts it in their beginning, "Kentucky Fried Chicken is the latest fast food chain to redesign its restaurants for the Covid-19 era, with a revamp that emphasizes the drive-thru and limits human contact."

Back in September, smaller sites like The Minority Mindset were already heralding a "drive-thru renaissance," due to various brands pushing for a mobile pick-ups, additional drive-thru lanes, and walk-up windows. By the end of October, Business Insider was commenting how although the high-tech drive thru innovations were already developing before COVID-19 struck, the pandemic has reoriented the industry so that delivery, drive-thrus, and pickups are now core components of their service.

Additionally, Business Insider discovered the fact that the industry trend is pushing franchisees to invest in the innovation, thus developing it further. Frank Liberio, Restaurant Brands International's chief information officer, explained that, "Sharing the positive [sales numbers] with [our franchisees] is a big part of [modernizing our business]. But, when they see [these innovations] down the street at one of their competitors, I think they also kind of get a sense of: It's time now for us to do this as well." So, our dystopian present is set to bake itself into a high-tech future.