9 Fast Food Chains That Are Phasing Out Dining Rooms – Eat This Not That

In order to make room for more drive-thru lanes and areas for curbside pickups, fast-food chains have revamped the concept of a modern restaurant with new design prototypes. And one element, in particular, seems to be taking up less and less space in a modern fast-food restaurant: the dining room.

As chains continue to unveil their future restaurant designs, many are downsizing their dining rooms and, in some cases, getting rid of them altogether. Here are some of the biggest chains leading the charge in the shift to offsite dining.

For more, check out It’s America’s Fastest Drive-Thru Right Now, and be sure to skip the 8 Worst Fast Food Burgers to Avoid Right Now.

Courtesy of Taco Bell
One of the biggest changes you’ll see at these new Go Mobile Taco Bell locations is the massive drive-thru, followed by much smaller dining areas placed right above them. At least 30 such sites will have been completed by the end of this year.
Panera new generation restaurant
Courtesy of Panera

Panera just opened its first “next-gen” restaurant in Missouri last week, and in addition to dual drive-thru lanes and new digital features, its dining room has also had a facelift. For one thing, the new location and any future Panera stores will have dining areas about five times smaller than what you’re used to. However, the chain opts for comfort and will fully display its bread ovens for customers to marvel at.

Burger King
Courtesy of Burger King

Burger King’s “restaurant of the future,” a prototype set to begin rolling out this year, will feature several new features: massive drive-thrus, food lockers, conveyor belts and, in some cases, . . . outdoor dining areas. While some of the chain’s new designs feature smaller dining areas located directly atop the drive-thru lanes, others forego a traditional interior altogether and instead include only a shaded terrace to eat there.

Portillo’s
Courtesy of Portillo

Portillo’s, a beloved Chicago-based brand, is as well known for its iconic hot dogs as it is for its grand dining rooms. But the future looks very different for the chain and its customers. According to CEO Michael Osanloo, Portillo’s is betting on off-site sales as its main source of traffic, and its new locations will reflect that strategy.

Not only is Portillo reducing the size of its dining areas, but it will soon be testing a prototype location without any dining areas. The first one pickup unit only will open in Joliet, Illinois this winter and will have three drive-thru lanes instead.

ihop flip'd showcase
Courtesy of IHOP

IHOP may be a basic restaurant chain, but the brand is growing with an on-the-go offshoot more suited to takeout. Flip’d by IHOP serves IHOP’s signature breakfast and lunch menu, but in portable packaging, and offers much smaller locations with limited dining areas.

Del Taco
Shutterstock

Del Taco’s idea for a post-pandemic restaurant has been dubbed Fresh Flex — a new design that offers a range of store sizes to potential operators. Some of these options include small drive-through-only locations with no dining areas.

mcdonalds
Shutterstock

Not to be outdone in terms of drive-thru efficiency, McDonald’s said last year that it was also explore an express restaurant modelwhich would forego dining and focus on drive-through, take-out and delivery services.

kfc exterior
Courtesy of KFC

KFC announced last year that he planned to phase out the design of his current restaurant (dubbed the “American Showman”) for a restaurant that places less emphasis on meals. It has introduced two new models that will significantly reduce its traditional dining areas – one focused on expanding drive-thru in suburban areas, and one with less dining capacity for urban areas where real estate is expensive.

mexican chipotle grill storefront at night
Shutterstock

In addition to adding its Chipotlanes Across America (its steroid-exclusive drive-thru), Chipotle has also tested a first-ever fully digital restaurant in New York State last year. The location does not have a dining room and its employees cannot take in-store orders. Instead, customers must place orders through the chain’s mobile app or website for pickup or delivery. You can expect to see this Chipotle setup expand across the country in the coming years.

For more, check out the 108 most popular sodas ranked by how toxic they are.

Mura Dominko

Mura serves as associate editor and directs ETNT’s coverage of America’s favorite fast food and restaurant chains. Read more

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