Burger King's future restaurants will be fit for the coronavirus age, with triple drive-thrus, burger pickup lockers, takeout counters and more.
The burger chain unveiled two new restaurant designs with those features and others on Thursday. It plans to build some prototypes next year in Miami, Latin America and the Caribbean, and incorporate other elements into existing restaurants over time.
"As we look into 2021, we'll be ramping up again on our new development around the world and doing a lot of remodels," said Josh Kobza, chief operating officer for Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King.
Some of the features highlighted in the prototype, like double drive-thru lanes, curbside pickup and digital menu boards, already exist. Others are brand new.
In the new designs, customers will be able to drive into a designated spot, order through the app and have food delivered to their cars. They'll see triple drive-thru lanes, one dedicated for delivery drivers. If they arrive on foot, they'll be able to order outside through a walk-up window. The restaurants will also be smaller: One prototype has no indoor dining option at all. The other has a dining room and kitchen — with a conveyor belt for drive-thru orders — suspended over the lanes.
Burger King has been working on new restaurant designs for a few years. But the pandemic has accelerated certain trends, like online ordering, and made to-go orders an even greater focus for fast-food restaurants.
"We're seeing more and more guests wanting to dine off-premise, wanting to use drive-thrus, wanting to do takeaway," Kobza said. "With Covid this year, many of those shifts in consumer preferences have accelerated." Those changes prompted Burger King to "innovate even faster and to think even more about how quickly we can evolve and improve things like our drive-thru experience or the delivery experience."
Drive-thru and delivery have been crucial for Burger King's US business during the pandemic, when indoor dining has been banned or restricted.
In the second quarter, drive-thru sales made up 85% of total US sales, compared to about 67% of total sales in US restaurants last year. Over 6,500 of the nearly 7,300 US Burger King restaurants have drive-thrus.
And since February, Burger King has added delivery to about 2,000 more US restaurants. Now, about 6,100 US Burger King restaurants make deliveries.
There are nearly 18,800 Burger King restaurants worldwide.
As fast food restaurants plan for the future, many are emphasizing their to-go options over dining frooms. Taco Bell recently said that it is cutting back on dining room seating and adding a second drive-thru lane dedicated to pick-up orders made on its app. The restaurant's "Go Mobile" concept is debuting next year.