Drive-Throughs Help Coffee Sales

More convenience store chains and fast-casual restaurant chains add drive throughs at their stores, which helps with the sale of coffee.

The fast-food drive-through concept now covers the world of designer coffee, convenience stores and fast-casual chains such as Panera Bread.

Drive-through sales are growing after the economic recession. Sales increased 3% in 2011, and 2% in 2010, according to a report from NPD Group. Last year, 12.4 billion consumers visited fast-food drive-throughs, which was a significant increase, NPD said.

“For the consumer, it’s all about time and convenience,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analysts, to USA TODAY. “But for the restaurant, it’s also about the bottom line.”

Fast-casual, designer coffee and convenience store chains have all grown the past year in their drive-through business, particularly for their sales of coffee products.

Convenience Stores: Drive-throughs are a new break-through at several hundred of the nation’s 148,000 convenience stores, estimated Jeff Lenard, spokesman for NACS. He said Pak-A-Sak drive-throughs in Amarillo, Texas might be influenced by Fido because every dog in the car gets a free dog treat.

Fast Casual: At Panera Bread, drive-through services has evolved into a serious moneymaker. Panera now plans to build drive-throughs at between 20% and 30% of its new store locations, said founder Ron Shaich to USA TODAY. By the end of 2012, Panera will have 200 drive-throughs, offering everything on the Panera menu.

“Drive-throughs aren’t bad,” Shaich said. “What’s bad is doing them poorly in a mechanized way with processed food. I’m all for giving people access to Panera’s good food–not limiting it.”

Designer Coffee: Starbucks opened its first drive-through coffee shop in Vancouver, Wash., in 1994. Today, it has nearly 2,500 drive-throughs, said spokeswoman Lisa Passe to USA TODAY.

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