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Smokey Bones opens its first drive-thru

The casual dining chain decided to go all-in as it seeks to generate more takeout sales.
smokey bones drive-thru
Image courtesy of Smokey Bones

When Smokey Bones decided to add its first drive-thru lane, which opened in Bowling Green, Ky., on Wednesday, it decided to go all the way.

Thus, the lane features digital menu boards for its flagship brand and its two virtual concepts, The Wing experience and Burger Experience, as well as digital order confirmation and two-way sound. It’s not just for mobile orders or delivery customers, meaning it’s the rare full-service restaurant with a full-fledged drive-thru.

We have built a traditional drive-thru in terms of form and function that consumers would be familiar with,” said James O’Reilly, CEO of Smokey Bones, “So, we can provide our guests with the type of drive-thru experience that they would expect, while also getting the incredible taste and quality of a Smokey Bones meal,”

O’Reilly said that the overall goal of adding a digital drive-thru is to further the off-premises relevancy of the brand.

“We invested in this drive-thru initiative as a natural extension of our off-premises strategy and focus as a company. We believe that by adding drive-thru to our locations we can make our off-premises guest experience significantly more convenient,” said O’Reilly.

This comes at a time where drive-thru concepts have risen in popularity. Since the pandemic, there has been an increase in demand for the convenience of drive-thru. According to a study published by Bluedot, consumers are visiting drive-thrus at higher rates compared to the early pandemic. 74% of respondents stated they visited drive-thrus the same amount or more often than usual.

Drive-thrus give full-service restaurants the opportunity to compete with fast food businesses, and Smokey Bones is one the first to try it out. O’Reilly expects the lane will generate sales the company wouldn’t get otherwise.

“For a full-service restaurant chain or a casual dining restaurant chain it’s an industry first to be competing directly with other drive-thrus in competitive restaurant trade areas. We expect this to be significantly incremental to our restaurant performance,” said O’Reilly.

Smokey Bones might not stop here either. According to O’Reilly, the results of the Bowling Green experiment may lend itself to other locations following suit.

“Pending the results at Bowling Green we see significant opportunity across the company to add drive-thrus to many more of our locations,” he said.

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