Has Fast Food Ditched The In-Restaurant Dining Experience?

When COVID-19 first swept the globe in 2020, U.S. restaurants were given a directive that dramatically shifted food culture in America — they would have to shut down their dining rooms (via Drexel News). Despite the many obstacles restaurants faced during the pandemic, fast food establishments found sales increasing and their businesses thriving (per Thrillist). But as the world began to open up and people returned to eating inside, many fast food chains closed off their dining rooms from the public again in 2021 after a brief reopening period due to apparent labor shortages (via Insider).

However, while dine-in service at your favorite fast food restaurants may be on the decline, drive-thru options continue to thrive. As CNBC points out, during 2020, many fast food restaurants saw their drive-thru profits increase, and industry leaders seem confident that drive-thru is a worthwhile investment. More recently, Canadian chain Tim Hortons announced a renewed focus on drive-thru dining centered around customer convenience. This might make you wonder whether your days of sitting inside a McDonald's and enjoying a Big Mac are numbered.

Many fast food chains are switching to drive-thru only

According to Restaurant Business, fast food drive-thrus were booming before COVID-19, the pandemic only heightened its demand. Due to the increase in drive-thru business, it's only natural that fast food companies would start developing versions of their restaurants that remove the indoor dining option entirely.

Taco Bell has opened Taco Bell Defy, a restaurant in Minnesota that offers four car lanes for its customers to pick up their food and no inside seating. Schlotzsky's now has a drive-thru-only experience in Oklahoma known as the Design 1000. This building has two drive-thrus and no place for customers to enjoy their sandwiches indoors. Taco Bell and Schlotzsky's aren't the only iconic fast food chains switching to a drive-thru only model, other big names like McDonald's and Burger King are also working to open exclusively drive-thru service locations (via KSAT).

Fans of fast food have mixed reactions to the way the industry seems to be leaving behind dine-in service. On an Instagram post in which Taco Bell announced the opening of Taco Bell Defy, one user expressing their excitement and wrote that Taco Bell Defy was "The only reason I'd go to Minnesota in my life 😍." But another concerned customer responded, " ​​This is how you eliminate jobs 👍🏻." Although a growing number of fast food restaurants seem to be making plans to leave in-restaurant dining behind, only the future will tell whether or not sit-down fast food meals will go extinct.