Schlotzsky looks at the drive-thru |


Restaurants are changing, and fast food chains find themselves in the unique position of being able to benefit from both the continued consumer interest in off-premises orders and the return of newly mobile consumers to on-site dining. While 36% of the US population is now fully vaccinated, and the CDC now advises that these inoculated consumers can safely enjoy activities indoors without a mask, restaurants with on-site dining options are well placed to take advantage of consumer pushbacks. demand for restaurant experiences.

Far from focusing on on-premises channels and trusting renewed consumer enthusiasm for restaurants to sell, fast-casual sandwich chain Schlotzsky’s predicts that the demand for digital convenience will only increase in the months and months. coming years.

“Like everyone in the industry, we had to quickly pivot and find new ways to reach consumers in early 2020, and one thing that has become increasingly clear is consumer demand for convenience. and accessibility, ”Tory Bartlett, brand director at Schlotzsky’s, told PYMNTS. in an interview. “While this demand is nothing new, 2020 has only accelerated the need to change the way customers access our brand.”

In addition to offering customers increased digital ordering options during the pandemic, which included updating Schlotzsky’s app and loyalty program in the fall, the chain also sought to make an emotional improvement. to consumers throughout this stressful time.

Putting joy on the menu

Throughout the pandemic, Schlotzsky launched a number of wellness initiatives, focusing on indulgent menu dishes, fun promotions and community-focused campaigns. The Pay It Forward initiative at the start of the pandemic, for example, encouraged customers to purchase a $ 7 lunch for first responders and medical staff, while much of the channel’s social media posts showcased local franchise operators and encouraged consumers to satisfy their cravings for indulgent foods. .

That playful spirit continues with the channel’s recently announced partnership with footballer and sports broadcast personality Terry Bradshaw, in which Bradshaw encourages consumers to train their jaws to eat Schlotzsky’s new dishes.

“The Mouth Muscle Movement Series offers our fans an interesting way to prepare for and enjoy Schlotzsky’s new, meatier sandwiches,” Bartlett said. “Terry is a natural fit for our fans, and in addition to his extensive training experience as an athlete, he has been a Schlotzsky fan for years.

These sandwiches meet consumer demand for more gourmet menu items. Bartlett noted that the chain’s approach to menu innovation is “deeply rooted in customer ideas,” adding that these extra-meaty sandwiches, for example, were created to provide consumers with “even more food. value (which they want) and abundance (which they want) I have come to expect).

Make an offsite command stick

While many consumers have turned to off-premises restaurant channels throughout the pandemic, the return to restaurant dining carries the risk of off-premises sales plummeting significantly – a drop that Schlotzsky hopes to prevent by continuing to invest in the latter. canals.

“Off-premises meals and consumer demand for this service, whether through drive-thru access, delivery service or curbside pickup (available through our app), is a trend to stay put. Bartlett said.

The numbers support Bartlett’s prediction – as Andrew Robbins, co-founder and CEO of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) restoration company Paytronix, told Karen Webster in a recent interview: “What’s really interesting is that people are coming back and in the restaurant, we have not seen a drop in online orders. “

Of all the off-site online channels, Schlotzsky has a particular focus on drive-thru, which, Bartlett said, “will be of critical importance to the brand.” To make the model work at the drive-thru, he added, “The speed of service must meet expectations.”

In fact, the PYMNTS study featured in the March edition of Delivering On Restaurant Rewards, created in collaboration with Paytronix, notes that nearly 4 in 10 consumers would spend more on food orders if restaurants offered drive-thru pickup. . Additionally, many fully immunized consumers continue to seek out steering wheel controls. Data from the May edition of PYMNTS and Paytronix Order To Eat Tracker indicate that more than one in 4 vaccinated restaurant customers would be willing to spend more on food orders for drive-thru pickup options.

Future-oriented restaurant design

Many restaurants have redesigned stores in light of changes in ordering behavior since the start of the pandemic – most recently Wendy’s announced that 30% of its new locations will be non-traditional restaurants, many of which will be designed around delivery. and delivery. -go. Schlotzsky’s began to design restaurants around drive-thru, delivery and pick-up.

“Last fall, we unveiled two new design prototypes focusing on off-premises dining,” Bartlett said. “The majority of our existing restaurants can seat up to 90 people, but these two new prototypes have a much smaller footprint.”

One of the models reduces the seating capacity to 35 people, and the other “has drive-thru on both sides of the building and no seats inside”. Bartlett added that 99% of Schlotzsky’s new restaurants will offer drive-thru.

“Looking ahead,” Bartlett said, “we continue to evolve the brand to better serve consumers where they want to be encountered.”

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About the study: A third of consumers who signed up for subscription services in the past year were just there for the free trial. In the 2021 Subscription Commerce Conversion Index, PYMNTS surveys 2,022 U.S. consumers and analyzes more than 200 subscription commerce providers to focus on the key features that turn ‘subscription curious’ into persistent, long-lasting subscribers. term.


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