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Is the All-American Drive-Through Ready to Go Global?

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Source: Euromonitor International

Drive-through foodservice is often thought of as a strictly American phenomenon, and it's true that there is no other market where it has such a prominent role in the fast food landscape. McDonald's has reported in the past that nearly two-thirds of US sales come through the drive-through window, and even chains like Starbucks are looking to add more drive-through service as a way to drive traffic in the competitive US environment. But it's also true that other markets have begun warming up to the idea of drive-through foodservice, and operators are jumping on the chance to add convenience and reach as many customers as possible. This is especially true in emerging markets with high-income urban areas, a growing professional class with increasingly hectic schedules, and an expanding presence of chains.

That is not to say, however, that all emering markets are conducive to drive-through growth, and locations should be chosen carefully based on driving culture, unique market dining preferences, and economic factors like rental costs for larger-footprint outlets. This graphic takes a look at the wealthiest global cities with particularly ingrained car cultures, using the number of passenger cars in use per household from Euromonitor's Cities data. This highlights a number of key cities that may have both the automotive traffic and the spending power to support the drive-through channel, and illustrates some key parallels between emerging market cities and those that already support major drive-through channels. The Middle East in particular stands out as a wealthy, automotive-focused region, with Dubai reporting nearly identical figures to Chicago, and Kuwait City topping any other major global city in terms of car usage, even famously traffic-choked cities like Los Angeles.

Next, we'll take a closer look at potential drive-through market opportunities worldwide, breaking down the various factors that lead to drive-through success and the global operators that are already taking advantage of this growing channel.

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