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Could Taco Bell's 4-lane drive-thru be a trend?

Virus Outbreak Mississippi
Posted at 7:40 AM, Aug 05, 2022

It's easier than ever to order something on your phone and pick it up when you're ready.

Now, companies are trying to make the experience even smoother.

Chick-fil-a recently added an "express lane" for mobile users at some drive-thru locations. Chipotle is considering a transition to more walk-up windows. Taco Bell is moving vertically.

The company launched its Taco Bell Defy store this summer. The two-story building features four drive-thru lanes on the ground level. The kitchen is on the second floor.

Taco Bell workers send the food to people through small elevator tubes.

"It was really just looking at where consumers and technology are today," said Josh Hanson, the founder of WORKSHOP and one of the minds who helped bring Taco Bell Defy to reality.

"Nobody's done this before," Hanson said. "That comes through the design and organization of the building. It comes in working out every detail of the lift system that brings the food up and down."

The restaurant's four lanes are split up by customers. One is dedicated to "traditional" drive-thru customers. The others are optimized for mobile orders.

New Taco Bell Defy includes four drive-thru lanes, including three optimized for people who ordered ahead.

The goal is to be more efficient.

Drive-thru wait times averaged more than six minutes per visit in 2021.

The creators of Taco Bell Defy believe they can serve customers in under two minutes.

"I think people realize that their time is valuable," said Michael Strommen, the CEO of PD Instore, another company that worked on the design. "They'd rather spend time elsewhere, rather than twelve minutes in a drive-thru lane."

Strommen believes the concept could be applied to other industries.

"Let's say you're at a Walgreens or a CVS," Strommen said. "There's an incredible opportunity. You're beholden to whoever has twenty minutes of questions in front of you. Many of us don't have any questions. We want an express lane."

For now, the Taco Bell Defy concept remains one-of-a-kind.

It's located in suburban Minneapolis.

Strommen and Hanson say the novelty of the new store hasn't worn off yet.

"It's been so much excitement," Hanson said. "People are sending GoPros up the tubes. They are ordering different drinks. They are coming multiple times and bringing cars full of people."

"I was, quite honestly, shocked at how excited people were," Strommen said. "We thought we were putting in an efficient vehicle for customer experience. But it was a party for days."