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'Ghost' Restaurants That Rely on Mobile-App Deliveries, Pickups Are Changing Real Estate

With “Order Ahead” apps on the rise, Quick Service Restaurants are becoming more interested in the amount of available parking and adequate room for drive-thrus. Should parking lots be reconfigured to accommodate this new trend?

Photo Courtesy of CoStar.

The restaurant chain dining room is dying so fast it's already becoming a ghost.

Quick-service restaurants such as Chipotle Mexican Grill are adding more drive-up lanes and online ordering options.

Currently in testing at Chipotles are drive-up pickup lanes, which the company is calling "Chipotlanes," to be used by customers ordering ahead on the Chipotle mobile app, without having to leave their cars.

Independent "ghost restaurants" that make food just for delivery, with no dining rooms and little or no customer interaction, are on the rise.

The long-term effects could change the way restaurant companies or developers choose sites, locations, designs and staff.

The move may even affect what it costs to build, lease and operate those eateries.

Fast changes are coming - One is the rise of dedicated restaurant company apps widely deployed by national chains that let customers order and pay for food before arriving.

The number of mobile orders placed at U.S. restaurants rose 50 percent in 2017.

Business Insider Intelligence predicted last year that the order-ahead segment will account for 10.7 percent of all quick-service restaurant sales by 2020.

The other trend is the rise of third-party services -- like DoorDash, GrubHub and Uber Eats - that deliver food directly to homes, offices and other gathering places.

Financial services firm Morgan Stanley projected that direct delivery could account for 40 percent of annual U.S. restaurant sales or $220 billion by 2020.

Direct delivery is extremely convenient for customers but costly for most restaurant operators, who typically shell out 30 percent of meal tabs to those delivery companies.

Joining Panera and other competitors, Chipotle during the past year also partnered with DoorDash for deliveries at some locations and also offers its own direct delivery in some markets.

For restaurant companies scouting locations, the push toward on-site services, like the designated vehicle pick-up lanes, means that amenities like available parking space could become just as important as the square footage of actual store.

2019 CoStar.

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