Dining Room Dilemma

The Lempert Report
March 17, 2023

What we've seen during the pandemic is a lot of fast food restaurants, obviously their sales from drive-through have increased dramatically. Sales of the restaurant people dining in is down about 16% and, 39% of all sales, at a fast food restaurant goes through the drive-through.  So guess what they've decided to do? Let's get rid of in-store dining. And you know, why have to deal with the space? Because they can take that space put in more drive-through lanes rather than just having one drive-through lane. So people can pick up things faster. They don't have to clean it, they don't have the labor factor involved. It's a way to get, you know, bottom line, is more money per burger that you sell. But I think it's gonna backfire on them. I think that there's still a lot of people who, you know, if 39% of your sales goes to their drive-through, well guess what that means? 51%, no, 61%, go through people who are coming into the restaurant and sitting there. So, you know, we've gotta weigh that out. And I think that it's a knee-jerk reaction the same way we saw with 15 minute delivery and so on, that probably in two or three years, all these fast food restaurants are gonna have to go back to built-in seating.

Sally: Yes. And you know, for me, I think about small towns and I think about when I was a kid and we didn't have any fast food restaurants until I was in high school. We got a McDonald's, and it became, not only was it a place where an inexpensive place where people wanted to go and have sit down and have some food, but it also became a place, a safe place for young people to go and hang out and have food together. It was a hangout and it really meant a lot to our town when it came, we got it. So I wonder if there are still some people out there that, you know, the food isn't that great enough for them to just want to drive through and get it, you know, there's another element missing that if we take out the dining rooms.

Phil: Absolutely. And, and you're bringing up a great point. I remember my second job in life when I was 16, I guess, is working at a McDonald's, in Belleville, New Jersey. And that's what it was. It was a hangout, probably it was a hangout because all of our friends used to come and we used to give them free cheeseburgers, but I guess I should not admit to that.