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Burger King Introduces New Restaurant Model for a Post-COVID World

The burger franchise is the latest to unveil a “restaurant of the future” prototype, featuring a stunning suspended kitchen and dining room above the drive-thru lanes.

Image from Burger King via CNN Business.

Burger King announced Thursday morning a new design prototype that boasts dedicated mobile order and curbside pickup areas, drive-in, and walk-up order sections, an enhanced drive-thru experience, exterior dining spaces and sustainable elements.

This launch comes amid changing consumer behavior in response to dining room closures and municipal social distancing mandates. Surging use of drive-thru lanes, online ordering and delivery in recent months has pressured operations across the QSR segment. The idea of consumers using restaurants in an off-premise setting isn’t likely going away when the pandemic subsides. 

Burger King’s new prototype provides multiple ordering and delivery models and cuts the physical footprint roughly 60 percent from traditional buildings and sites. Customers will now be able to park in a drive-in area under solar-powered canopies. There, they can place orders through Burger King’s app by scanning a QR code at their parking spot, and have food brought to their cars. Guests can notify restaurants upon arrival through the app as instructed on the parking signs. Mobile and delivery orders will also now be available for pickup at coded food lockers facing the exterior of the restaurant.

One of the new design options replaces Burger King’s traditional indoor dining room with a shaded patio featuring outdoor seating for customers who prefer to dine on-premises. A living wall frames a guest’s view into the kitchen interior, complete with Burger King broiler branding. Additionally. an external walk-up window on the glass façade will be an alternative ordering point for takeout.

In perhaps the most notable feature, one of the models includes a suspended kitchen and dining room above the drive-thru lanes configured to reduce the building footprint, making it ideal for urban driving cities. Drive-thru guests have their order delivered from the suspended kitchen via conveyor belt system, and each lane features its own pickup spot. This specific design features a triple drive thru, with a dedicated lane for delivery drivers. Guests who want to dine in can access the dining room and covered outdoor seating situated above the drive-thru entrance. Plus, the model is a 100 percent touchless experience.

“In March our in-house design and tech team accelerated new restaurant design plans and pushed the limits of what a Burger King restaurant could be,” said Josh Kobza, chief operating officer for Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King. “We took into consideration how consumer behaviors are changing and our guests will want to interact with our restaurants. The result is a new design concept that is attractive to guests and will allow our franchisees to maximize their return.”

Burger King plans to build the first of these new looks 2021 in Miami, Latin America, and the Caribbean. RBI’s real estate is shifting overall. The company noted in August it would close “several hundred more restaurants than we might in a typical year” across its Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Popeyes footprints in 2020.

Burger King isn’t the only QSR chain reevaluating how customers will interact with their brand. Last week, Taco Bell announced it is launching a new restaurant concept called Taco Bell Go Mobile that is designed specifically for diners to order ahead through the chain's mobile app. Taco Bell Go Mobile locations will include one traditional drive-thru lane and a priority pickup drive-thru lane that quickly services customers who order through the Taco Bell app. Shake Shack announced in May that it will remodel some restaurants to a "Shack Track" model that includes drive-thru lanes and walkup windows, and Chipotle plans to pivot its entire portfolio to its mobile-drive thru Chipotlane formats.

While these “restaurant of the future” designs are rolling out post-COVID, they are not necessarily revolutionary in the food service segment of the franchising industry. “The changes in restaurant design that are currently happening because of COVID-19 are not unprecedented, they were already coming,” said Buffalo Wings and Rings* CEO, Nader Masadeh. The brand began planning a revamped restaurant design a few years ago with a focus on off-premise offerings, outdoor seating and digital ordering. Now, the restaurant revamp is perfectly positioned for a post-COVID world.

“COVID-19 really just expedited where the industry was headed,” said Masadeh. “For example, the demand for variety within an indoor/outdoor restaurant space has always been there, and the shift to off-premise and delivery services was already well underway. In addition, the need for technological integration has been a primary focus over the past few years. Now, it just so happens that all of these changes have been accelerated to combat COVID-19 and position brands for success in the new normal.”

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.