Casual-dining eateries are quietly making a killing with a slightly upscale twist on one of fast food’s biggest draws: the drive-thru.
Some of the biggest names in casual dining ? including Applebee’s (APPB), Ruby Tuesday (RI) and Outback Steakhouse (OSI)? are racking up additional sales of up to 10% from offering curbside pickup to car-loving customers.
Ten years ago, the concept didn’t exist. Today, industry consultants say curbside pickup – customers phone in orders and the food is brought to them in their cars in designated parking spots in restaurant parking lots – is casual dining’s fastest-growing sector.
Some say curbside could turn the $95 billion casual-dining world on its head. Ronald McDonald’s not shaking in his shoes, but some casual-dining chains are even siphoning away fast-food customers.
“It may have started out as a convenience,” says Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a restaurant consulting firm. “But it’s becoming a complete necessity.”