When you picture a Denny’s location, you’re likely imagining the same sit-down joint I do, one that serves up classic diner meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But in keeping with the times, a new Denny’s just opened up in the small city of Kerman, California with a very unique feature—one that’s more reminiscent of a McDonald’s than a diner.
This new Denny’s location in Kerman, California has a drive-thru for takeaway orders. Notably, this is not the first drive-thru Denny’s has ever built: In 2007, a location was built in Indianapolis with a drive-thru that served a limited menu of three breakfast sandwiches from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Indianapolis location confirmed to The Takeout that since 2007, the drive-thru menu has since expanded to more than just breakfast sandwiches, now serving a variety of items.
The new Kerman location has followed suit, offering a wide array of dishes if not the entire Denny’s menu. An employee at the Kerman location confirmed to The Takeout that a great number of entrees are available via the drive-thru, including Grand Slams, omelets, sandwiches, burgers, and even entire dinner platters, including T-bone steaks.
Everything is cooked to order, which results in fresher tasting food but does take some time to prepare. The Kerman employee recommended ordering online prior to pickup so as to save time sitting in the Denny’s drive-thru.
With drive-thru service, it’s clear that the traditionally sit-down Denny’s is working its way into a corner of the market it doesn’t often cater to: an increasingly mobile customer base. The New York Times reports that the drive-thru business is now thriving, spurred by a general shift away from customers’ desire to eat inside fast food dining rooms for various reasons.
For many, social preferences have changed since the pandemic started, and a significant proportion of consumers would rather eat in the environment of their choosing rather than, say, the nearest McDonald’s location. Industry experts also say that part of the current drive-thru boom is that operations have improved their efficiency, and that uptick in speed has led to changing preferences as well.
Could this be a game changer for all full-service and fast casual restaurants? Chipotle is only expanding the rollout of its “Chipotlanes,” dedicated drive-thru pickup lanes from which you can’t order on the spot but must specify a mobile order you already placed. Then there’s the Taco Bell Defy location in Minnesota that’s entirely composed of drive-thru lanes with no dining room; the kitchen shuttles orders down from the second floor.
I’m not so convinced that every restaurant fits into this scheme. Nevertheless, if Denny’s is willing to bet that its T-bone steaks are drive-thru-friendly, who’s to stop a business like Texas Roadhouse from following suit, as its pickup game only gets bigger?
I might be in the minority, but I prefer eating food from a full-service restaurant on the premises. Some food travels poorly, and ever since the pandemic began I try to cherish any time spent outside my home. But if this drive-thru concept pans out, next time I pass by Denny’s, I might just try eating some Moons Over My Hammy in the driver’s seat of my car.