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Inside Del Taco’s new ‘flexible’ prototype

The chain is the latest to debut a new design focused on takeout and seeking more flexible real estate options.
Photograph courtesy of Del Taco

Del Taco this week unveiled a new prototype designed to increase development flexibility and provide new options for takeout, becoming the latest in a long parade of fast-food concepts looking to upgrade their business models to meet shifting consumer demands.

The 600-unit chain’s “Fresh Flex” prototype features additional drive-thru lanes and additional options for delivery and mobile order pickup. It also “expands real estate opportunities to help lower net investment costs,” the company said.

“Continuing to adapt and evolve is the lynchpin for Del Taco to remain ahead of the curve in the restaurant industry,” CEO John Cappasola said in a statement. “Our new prototype solidifies our relationships with new and longstanding fans by offering them the most efficient, convenient and enjoyable environment possible. Equally as powerful, ‘Fresh Flex’ propels broader growth opportunities.”

Del Taco DT

A number of fast-food chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC and others, have introduced new prototypes in recent months, all of them designed to bolster takeout orders—all of them feature double or even triple drive-thru lanes, for instance, and the mobile-order lane appears on its way to ubiquity in the quick-service business.

The changes are coming in response to a dramatic shift in consumers away from dine-in service, brought about by the pandemic but widely thought to have been inevitable, anyway, as pre-pandemic consumers were ordering more takeout as it was. The shift helped many quick-service chains generate sales growth last year.

Real estate is another consideration. Getting these locations will be difficult given the expected intense competition for sites. More chains are looking to improve their flexibility as a result.

Del Taco worked with the hospitality design firm MY Studio ID to reimagine its interior and interior designs to “communicate the brand’s commitment to being ‘Fresh as Del.’” Customers can see employees slicing avocados for guacamole and grating cheddar cheese and grilling chicken.

Del Taco interior

The prototype also features third-party delivery pick-up stations, double-drive-thru lanes dedicated to mobile orders and dedicated parking lot areas for customers who want to park, eat and go.

The company will feature a number of different options ranging from 1,200 to 2,400 square feet, including freestanding locations, end caps and conversions. “We needed a design that was going to support our aggressive growth goals,” Billy Jensen, an operating partner at multi-unit franchise group Jetz foods, said in a statement. “In site selection, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model doesn’t work because every model is different.”

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