Applebee's Is Testing Its First Drive-Thru Lanes

The restaurant chain will soon be serving up its famous appetizers curbside.

George Sheldon/Shutterstock

Since the pandemic began, indoor dining has wholly changed. At one point, it almost disappeared, leaving chains like Applebee's struggling to adapt. To stay competitive and give customers more ways to get their orders, Applebee's is testing drive-thru lanes. The restaurant offered to-go orders for pickup well before the pandemic, but it only accounted for roughly 12.8% of sales in 2019, according to CNN.

Last year, the chain tested its first drive-thru window, and now there are two open and operating. One is in Texarkana, Texas, and one is in Monroe, Louisiana. Now, Applebee's president John Cywinski tells CNN that by the end of 2022, at least 15 chains will have drive-thru windows. That is still only 15 locations out of almost 2,000 locations.

Cywinski said that the new drive-thru windows, the next of which are expected to be built in West Columbia, South Carolina, and Colonial Heights, Virginia, will put Applebee's directly in competition with fast food and fast casual restaurants. The Applebee's drive-thru windows will be a bit different, though. Unlike at a McDonald's, you won't be able to order your meal when you pull up. You'll place the order ahead of time, either through the Applebee's app or website.

Applebee's is branching out further from a traditional chain dining experience in a time when most restaurants are adapting to meet the demand for more delivery and takeaway options. While it may seem odd to contemplate grabbing your mozzarella sticks and quesadilla burger with the same quickness you could pick up a value meal, it is not much different from the current method of ordering ahead and parking in the parking lot to run in and pick up your order. Except, of course, you don't have to get out of your car!

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.