COVID impact: Drive-throughs kick into high gear as customers seek alternatives to in-person dining

Van Harvieux is unconcerned with ambience, gratuity, or parking.

Each patron of his restaurant is seated behind a steering wheel. No one enters, no one sits, and no one makes a mess of the tables for him to clean.

“COVID has been both challenging and rewarding for me,” Harvieux explained as he handed an order out the window of Mudslingers Drive-Thru Coffee in Roseville.

The pandemic has been devastating for restaurants of all types in Minnesota. However, those with drive-through windows have an advantage. Drive-thru businesses have grown steadily in popularity, despite the closure of many sit-down restaurants.

“Minneapolis may have done so prematurely,” said Liz Rammer, CEO of the restaurant trade group Hospitality Minnesota.

According to QSR Magazine, the full-service category of restaurants in the United States declined by 30% between 2019 and 2020. However, the New York Times reports that fast-food drive-throughs increased 30% between March 2020 and March 2019.

Rammer stated that COVID’s effects have splintered the restaurant industry.

“At the moment, it’s a mixed bag,” she explained. Restaurants are also being impacted by supply chain disruptions, rising food prices, labour shortages, and ongoing concerns about mask wearing.

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