News & views of the industry we love

  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

QSR Development Part 1: Important Differences in QSR Development


Quick service restaurants are meant to serve a high volume of customers in a short amount of time. These restaurants focus on providing their customers with convenient and affordable options, as well as streamlined avenues for ordering. 


With these goals in mind, QSR development differs significantly from dine-in restaurants or other BTS developments, as specific qualities have to be addressed. Many QSRs today are looking to increase the efficiency of their service through the following developmental improvements. 


Let’s take a look at how QSR development uniquely stands out from other restaurants, and what you need to keep in mind when choosing a commercial developer to partner with


Varied Pickup Options


Quick service restaurants have always provided avenues for receiving the prepared meal in the continued pursuit of convenience. In recent years, these options have expanded, thanks to the success of numerous delivery-focused businesses, as well as pandemic and remote-work conditions requiring more availability for these options. 


Delivery services such as Grubhub, Postmates, Doordash, and Uber Eats have become ubiquitous and are an integral component of QSR operations today. Three or four years ago, ordering food through these services researching would require searching for a restaurant that utilized their services for delivery, then placing an order, and then waiting for longer than you would when ordering through a restaurant that provided their own delivery service, due to the two companies needing to communicate with each other to complete a transaction. 


Today, ordering through these services has become incredibly streamlined and convenient, and it is harder to find a restaurant that doesn’t utilize at least one of these delivery services. Developing a space with this in mind requires designating parking spaces specifically for pickup orders, which usually carry a limit of 10-15 minutes of parking, to ensure that these orders are regularly moving.


These designated spots have some overlap with another development choice, which is creating special entrances for pickup orders, and in some cases, leaving space for to-go shelving. These to-go shelving units are especially important, as the increased availability of online ordering means that for many QSRs, the majority of their orders in a day may come through as online orders, either being picked up by the customer or one of the many delivery services available. 


Creating separate entrances and allocating space for these cubby systems allows online orders to be kept separate from the in-person point of sale and reduces overall congestion. Additionally, if enough space is allocated during development, it may be feasible to install heated or refrigerated cubbies, to prolong the freshness of food orders awaiting pickup. 


Improved Drive-Thrus


Another area of improvement for QSRs is in their effective utilization of drive-thru pickup options. Many restaurants being developed today are placing more of an emphasis on these lanes and windows, which require more deliberate development on the front end but can provide a wealth of benefits during peak operating hours. 


Including a traditional drive-thru lane will take away from the available parking, so special care must be taken when developing these for QSRs. Many older buildings and restaurants are seeing issues in their current drive-thru lanes, as the growing need for food to go is resulting in long lines that are extending out of the drive-thru lane and leading to congestion in parking lots and even on roads. 


There is also a renewed need to properly address stacking requirements for a drive-thru business. These stacking requirements can differ greatly across different municipalities and states, but they are typically measured as a number of parking spaces required for a drive-thru lane, to represent the capacity of the drive-thru lane as it conducts business. This can be as simple and straightforward as 5 spaces per business, or as granular as 5 spaces behind the menu board and 4 spaces between the menu board and pickup window. 


There are a few options available to address these issues, each of which brings its own benefits and requirements to properly execute. The first option, which has seen limited usage for years now, and is now seeing a resurgence in construction, is the possibility of installing double- and even triple-lane drive-thrus. These lanes, which typically have two or three entrances with an ordering screen, and then zipper down into a single lane to pay and pick up orders, can accommodate a significantly higher volume of customers and traffic. They do require more space allocation, so it will mean finding the best possible layout to fit these lanes while also delivering the best parking lot for customers. 


Another option that is seeing more use in new developments is the pickup lane, a streamlined lane that is reserved exclusively for customers that placed an order through the QSRs smartphone app. These lanes allow convenience for the customer while also reducing congestion, as these customers do not need to try and find a parking spot to get their food order.  


Elimination of Interior Seating


With these needs for more drive-thru and pick-up lanes being factored into the developments, many QSRs are already planning for fewer seats inside the buildings. 

This change means smaller buildings and, often, creative options for the seating of customers. In some cases, this results in to-go-only restaurants, where no seating is provided for customers. 


For other restaurants, outside seating areas can be utilized. For these restaurants, this can range from a few tables to a complete patio, depending on what is needed. Either way, these outdoor seating options provide social distancing for those that are looking for it and allow for the restaurant to still provide seating options. 


The smaller footprint of these developments carries other benefits for the tenant, outside of the ability to quickly move through customers. Because more of the space is allocated for drive-thru and parking, and the building is primarily a kitchen with service windows, the development is typically faster and more cost-effective. This gives the restaurant the ability to develop more locations in a short time period, increasing their overall turnaround time on developments. This can mean a greater rate of expansion for growing and established businesses, and a quicker turnaround on delivery to tenants as a developer. 


Designed for the Future


As QSRs look to the future of food ordering and delivery, they are placing an increased emphasis on technology. This can range from ordering and delivery to even improved food preparation procedures. Touchless food preparation is of specific interest to many businesses as they continue to adjust to the realities of a post-pandemic world. Another interest of customers and businesses alike is providing facilities that can boast a standard of cleanliness, which can often be maintained through new technologies. These types of advancements do require more space or better utilization of the space that is available. This reality has driven a few innovative solutions.

Mcdonald's has proposed constructing a drive-thru-only store, which would eliminate the need for parking spaces by utilizing conveyor belts to deliver food orders. In this development, what would otherwise need to be set aside to function as parking space, could instead be converted 

into more drive-thru lanes and mobile order pick-up lanes. Taco Bell recently delivered a location that does just that, with Taco Bell Defy, which provides a completely drive-thru experience for their customers, with food being delivered via elevators.   


This is not the only innovative solution that Taco Bell has used to address space concerns while developing restaurants for their customers to enjoy. They also recently transformed a former neighborhood home in an urban area into a restaurant, with the space that was the front yard being used for lounge seating and outdoor games. This restaurant did not have space for a drive-thru lane, but this was intentional, as they elected to deliver a more socially-focused restaurant over a quick food delivery option.  


Other options that are being considered to maximize limited space are multi-story buildings, such as a recent development proposed by Burger King, where the building would be constructed to have the kitchen on the ground floor, and the sit-down dining room would be placed on the second floor, using verticality to address the issue of space. There are many examples of this type of construction throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, with Burger Kings, McDonald's, KFCs, and Pizza Huts using ground-floor kitchens with second-floor dining to accommodate their customers. 



Quick serve restaurants have their own host of concerns that need to be addressed during development, many of which have shifted or evolved in the last few years. With this renewed focus on expedited delivery and convenience for the customer, you need to be sure that you are developing the most efficient and customer-friendly restaurant that you can. 



Vice President of Construction

Jared Atkisson joined SimonCRE in 2015 as Vice President of Construction, where he oversees all of SimonCRE’s new construction projects, expansions, and remodels. Jared has especially abundant past experience in restaurant ground-up construction.


Other Posts by JARED: 

Putting 'Punch' into Remediating Your Construction Issues

Using Special Inspections to Ensure Quality Construction

Types of Roofs in CRE Development



Build to Suit Commercial Real Estate Development Commercial Real Estate Development Process Tenant Ground Up Development Quick Service Restaurant

  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.