Coffee & Convenience: Why Drive-Thrus Make All the Difference Among Today’s Consumers



Coffee & Convenience: Why Drive-Thrus Make All the Difference Among Today's Consumers

by Ryan J. Stansbury, CFE, Vice President of Franchise Development, PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans

Coffee & Convenience: Why Drive-Thrus Make All the Difference Among Today's Consumers
Ryan Stansbury

Last year, the pandemic shifted the norm of the food industry. It prompted many brands in the QSR space to rethink their offerings and operations to meet the needs of their consumers, while also adhering to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

While in-door dining rooms closed and people everywhere were confined to their homes, coffee remained the number one beverage of choice in the U.S. last year, surpassing tea, soda and even tap water. As the world went through a rapid period of transformation, some things didn’t change – like a coffee lover’s dedication. Many people remained loyal to their coffee consumption by visiting drive-thrus, getting coffee delivered or picking up their cup of joe via curbside.

The changes brought about by the pandemic showcased a business’ ability to adapt, create and innovate. The brands that continued to see an increase in revenue and retain a loyal customer base were the ones who were willing to rethink their standard way of doing things. The New Orleans-based, direct trade coffee roaster, PJ’s Coffee, embraced the change and rolled out a series of initiatives to continue to cater to their customers’ top need: convenience.

Convenience is King

When local shutdowns struck the world, contactless ordering and to-go options became the only way to provide customers with delicious coffee, tea and food. PJ’s Coffee went to the drawing board with the goal to offer their customers the standard convenience they know and love, while keeping them healthy and safe in the process.

With safety and convenience at the forefront of their minds, the beloved coffee brand launched drive-thru only locations, which provided a way for customers to get their daily dose of their favorite beverage without even having to leave their car.

Not only did this concept keep their customers and staff safe, but the proof was in the numbers. Last year, their drive-thru locations averaged 53.4% more revenue than locations without a drive-thru, and drive-thru purchases made up 65% of their total sales overall at drive-thru enabled locations. The franchise’s most successful drive-thru locations are in high-traffic areas, such as right off a freeway or in a busy intersection.

Unlike other to-go options, drive-thrus don’t charge customers an additional service fee to use. They’re also the perfect pit stop for commuters on the way to work, school, the gym or wherever their destination may be. The creation of drive-thru-only locations allowed PJ’s to fulfill customer needs and maintain a competitive edge during the pandemic.

Drive-Thrus Will Stay In-Demand

Looking forward, QSR brands can expect drive-thrus to remain in-demand even in the post-pandemic era due to changes in consumer trends. Even as restaurants reopen, to-go options like drive-thrus and delivery are still expected to influence revenue across the board substantially. While restrictions are lifting and consumers’ fears are easing, many have become adjusted to a ‘new order’ of doing things, such as ordering their coffee and lunch to-go. It’s no secret that restaurants that don’t embrace to-go ordering will continue to lose out, especially with so many competitors offering these options.

PJ’s Coffee has modeled just how mutually beneficial drive-thrus can be for the consumer and business alike. However, the drive-thru-only model doesn’t only benefit the brand as a whole, but it also benefits the individual franchisees. For example, the drive-thru model requires less investment to open due to the smaller space, but can be just as busy – if not busier – than traditional locations. It can also save franchisees as much as $100,000 on their investment.

In addition, this unique model offers franchisees the benefit of simple operations. The smaller space means franchisees will have more awareness of everything that’s going on at the location. It allows them to manage their site more efficiently versus pacing back and forth between the dining area and drive-thru.

If the pandemic has taught QSR brands anything, it’s that adaptability and innovation are key. As a coffee franchise known for both, PJ’s Coffee continues to remain ahead of consumer trends and beat out its competitors.

Coffee & Convenience: Why Drive-Thrus Make All the Difference Among Today's Consumers

About Ryan J. Stansbury, CFE, Vice President of Franchise Development, PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans

Upon Mr. Stansbury receiving his Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of New Orleans, he began working for Planet Beach Franchising Corporation (PBFC), a New Orleans-based international spa franchise.  Over a ten-year span, he served in numerous capacities for PBFC, aiding the company’s growth from 55 units to nearly 400 units in 42 U.S. states and eight different countries.  Mr. Stansbury was also a multi-unit Planet Beach franchisee from 2001 to 2015. 

Since 2010, Mr. Stansbury has served as the Vice President of Franchise Development for Ballard Brands. With over 20 years of franchise development experience, Mr. Stansbury’s primary responsibility is to facilitate domestic and international growth of a portfolio of retail brands. Mr. Stansbury is also a Certified Franchise Executive (CFE), a designation issued by the International Franchising Association in February of 2007 for his work and study in the franchise.