Minneapolis May Extend Drive-Through Ban. Is That Bad?
Drive-throughs are a big part of franchising and the American suburban landscape. As illustrated by a new proposal in Minneapolis, many cities are outlawing the construction of new drive-through businesses along with other auto-oriented facilities in certain parts of town. Is this a bad thing? Maybe not.
While we’ve all heard of cities outlawing the construction of new McDonald’s or Walmart locations to preserve their small-town charm, this (preliminary) proposal from Minneapolis is designed to do two things: ensure that valuable parcels in bustling areas see their highest, best use, and to improve pedestrian safety in areas with higher-than-normal pedestrian traffic counts.
In seeking to expand the number of pedestrian overlay districts—areas of the city designed to have active street life by prohibiting high-impact and auto-oriented uses—cities like Minneapolis are giving auto-focused businesses a forced chance to reinvent themselves for a changing world.
Of course, not all cities are Minneapolis or Chicago or San Francisco. There will always be a place for car-focused businesses, especially out in the ‘burbs. Just this weekend, two fairly crunchy friends of mine (who are new parents) told me how delighted they were at noticing a drive-through Jimmy John’s right by my house for their trek home.
That said, single-story, car-focused, drive-through businesses exact a toll on dense, walkable neighborhoods. Every curb cut slows vehicular traffic and forces cars and people (both famously inattentive) to intersect. Building single-story structures in dense locations tends to rile up neighbors who moved to an area for its density, rather than despite it.
As urban living becomes ever-more popular, the number of cities implementing and expanding pedestrian-focused districts will only increase. At the same time, commercial developers aren’t building nearly the number of one-store retail centers they did before the recession.
Rather than fighting these trends, franchise companies need to adapt their business models to fit different locations. Partner with a developer to build a mixed-use facility, rather than one store surrounded by a big parking lot. Make your food so appealing people are willing to walk or take the bus/train to get it. Utilize food-on-demand services such as Seamless or Bite Squad to bring your food to your customers, rather than the other way around. If Taco Bell can do it, you can, too!
Fighting change often has a characteristic death rattle sound that reflects poorly on a given business or industry. Innovation always wins versus those digging in their heels to prevent progress.
Look for a deeper dive into this in the next issue of Franchise Times.