New York (CNN Business)Taco Bell’s newest restaurant design emphasizes the drive-thru and limits human interaction, making it more suitable for the coronavirus era.
The most significant difference is the size. Taco Bell is cutting back on dining room seating and adding a second drive-thru lane dedicated to pick-up orders made on its app. The “Go Mobile” concept is debuting next year. A rendering of Taco Bell’s new restaurant model. The “evolved restaurant is specifically designed for guests to order ahead through the brand’s mobile app and enjoy the Taco Bell experience in a frictionless way,” the company said in a release Thursday.The design is in response to the changing ways consumers began ordering fast food since the pandemic’s start. Digital orders and drive-thrus exploded in popularity for basically every chain, including Chipotle (CMG), McDonald’s (MCD) and Starbucks (SBUX). Taco Bell owner Yum! Brands (YUM) said it served an additional 5 million cars through the taco chain’s drive-thrus compared with the same time a year ago. It also said digital orders at all of its brands, which include Pizza Hut and KFC, hit an all-time high, jumping $1 billion to $3.5 billion from the same quarter a year ago.Read MoreA rendering of Taco Bell’s new concept, which has two drive-thrus.Other features of the “Go Mobile” restaurant include adding curbside pick-up for contactless pickups and “bellhops” — masked employees stationed outside taking customers’ orders on digital tablets. Customers can still walk into the restaurant and order at the counter.Taco Bell rival Chipotle recently opened its 100th restaurant with a drive-thru, called a “Chipotlane.” Those locations had 10% higher sales during the second quarter compared with Chipotles without drive-thrus. Around 60% of its new locations planned this year will have drive-thrus.With Taco Bell’s focus on smaller restaurant spaces, a spokesperson told CNN Business that its planned new alcohol-slinging Cantina location in New York’s Times Square has been put “on pause.” It was supposed to be the brand’s first-ever multi-story location measuring 4,000-square-feet.