Drive Thru Marketing

Do we really need more Drive-Up Windows? Cars running. And running. What about the Environment?

In 1971, Larry, one of the 2 Guyz on Marketing, took a class at USC called LAS 430, Conservation & Natural Resources.  I remember being part of a discussion on drive-thru windows.  It was mostly negative, for the environment — how the drive thru window at that time used up valuable resources. (For those not around yet, this was just before the “gas crunches” of the 1970s.)

The drive up windows didn’t seem very ecological then. They were marketing “convenience”, not conscience.  With all of the Starbucks and fast food operators now, the situation, from the environmental point of view, is even worse.

If we look at consumer desires, needs and wants, most people, and leading the charge Millennials living in major cities, prefer try to use the quickest and most convenient way when it comes to ordering their food at restaurants. Apps, kiosks, and online have become commonplace. Ironically, it’s mostly Millennials that say they want to only shop with companies that are pro-environment.

Drive-thru shopping has become a part of many daily routines. And the drive-thru’s are morphing. Now we have “customer pickup” zones, sometimes curbside, sometimes special parking or loading zones: for dry cleaners, department stores, pharmacies, etc.

Visualize this: Drive thru customers and families at fast food restaurants stay in their vehicle and have the engine running. And running, during all times of the day.

Obviously the windows are more convenient than walking into the restaurant to place an order for food or beverage.

When Larry ventures within a mile in his Playa Vista neighborhood, he sees lines of cars at In and Out, Chic Fil A, McDonald’s and others. Brian has a new Chic Fil A that came in around the corner, and the lines have been 20-30 cars long, averaging 30 minute wait times from 11am to 3pm. These fast food operators and users of automobiles create negative impacts on the air quality. These idling vehicles waste gas, harm air quality, plus increase greenhouse gas emissions.

With the fast food restaurant business at their drive up windows consistently growing, customers use the drive-thru facilities, more and more. Especially in the big cities where time and convenience are major factors in the daily activities of people.

Convenience definitely makes the cash register ring. And there is an argument that drive thru’s reduce the physical footprint of a store, meaning the business needs less parking space.

The impact of online shopping is mixed in here, too. Many experts feel the Amazons and eBays of this world have had a horrible on the environment. (For more on supply chain dynamics and the impact of online shopping:

The 2 Guyz see this as a mixed benefit. Marketers will increasingly have to balance between the environment and convenience…sales and greater good. This is definitely an ethical issue hitting marketers right now.

What got us thinking was a new Nike store concept named “Nike Live.”  Their first store is on Melrose. The store is called “Nike by Melrose.”  One of its features curbside pickup service.

Just keep the auto running. Or the cash registers ringing.