Grill’d MD Simon Crowe on how drive-thru will inform its future growth

Grill’d MD Simon Crowe on how drive-thru will inform its future growth

Australian burger chain Grill’d recently opened its first drive-thru restaurant in Brisbane as part of a broader expansion strategy to service new markets and embrace new channels.

Grill’d – which is positioned as a healthier option than fast-food – is tapping into the significant global drive-thru food market. According to Cognitive Market Research, drive-thru was valued at over USD$620 billion in 2022, and is forecasted to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 5.62 per cent to 2030.

Meanwhile, in Australia, retail chains including 7/11, Ferguson Plarre Bakehouse, and BWS have recently explored the drive-thru concept.

Simon Crowe, Grill’d’s founder and managing director, told Inside Retail that FY23 has been its biggest year in terms of both order volumes and revenue –underpinned by the acceleration of its national restaurant strategy, and the popularity of its CBD restaurants.

Unlike fashion, he believes Grill’d is immune to the consumer spending downturn. Rather, the chain could potentially benefit from people seeking better value propositions compared to premium casual, and fine dining options, as they look to save.

Regarding the new drive-thru concept – which marks the brand’s 165th store –Crowe said that delivering a quality experience at pace was a conceptual challenge.

The drive-thru restaurant underwent numerous operational trials, and Grill’d tweaked the model to ensure that it won’t compromise on the chain’s ability to provide healthy burgers quickly.

“The restaurant itself will still have a focus on dine-in and cater to takeaway and delivery. Many landlords have been asking Grill’d to embark on this journey as they want to diversify away from traditional fast food which no longer meets the needs of a contemporary, modern Australia,” Crowe said.

The drive-thru will enable Grill’d to halve its transaction times with no impact to product quality, according to Crowe. He added that the brand will gain market and operational insights from the first drive-thru location, which will inform future growth plans.

“We know drive-thru (and stand-alone) will form an important part of our property strategy as we aim to serve more Australians in the format they desire,” Crowe said.

Business Growth

According to Suzee Brain, director of Australasian retail food consultancy Titanium Food, several considerations likely influenced Grill’d’s decision to open a drive-thru location.

These include leveraging its real estate, while also generating an additional income stream. She observed that Covid-19 created a “click-and-collect” nation with strong adoption of online ordering across the fast food and hospitality sector.

“Drive-thru is essentially click-and-collect for fast food [and] overseas, [and]major chains like Sweet Pea’s and Taco Bell added extra drive-thru lanes designated specifically for click-and-collect,” Brain said.

She expects drive-thru to help Grill’d grow its market share in what she described as “burger war” in Australia. It will also help the brand to differentiate itself from other players in the fresh and healthy space, which don’t currently offer a drive-thru option.

“Revenue and productivity benefits are enormous as drive-thru can represent20 to 50 per cent of a store’s sales. Grill’d need to nail the production system to retain their promise of freshly prepared [burgers] without causing long queuing delays,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mark Field, director and founder of Prof Consulting Group, told Inside Retail that the drive-thru model is growing rapidly across food and coffee, providing the next step forward in convenience for time-poor consumers.

“Time-saving, order accuracy and cleanliness post-Covid-19, [as well as]enhanced convenience are all key influencers behind the growing trend,” Fieldsaid.

“More importantly it enables operators such as Grill’d to target and reach a different customer which [should] provide new business growth.”

Watching Closely

Field noted that the drive-thru strategy could provide strong opportunities for Grill’d. However, if not managed well, he believes there’s some risk that dine-in customers will shift to drive-thru for convenience.

As a result, spending per person could potentially drop as customers spend less time in the restaurant, and are restricted in their ability to purchase additional items.

“It will be important for new and existing customers to differentiate between burger offers and chains to understand the value proposition,” he said.

Field added that, if executed well, the new drive-thru strategy could be a “gamechanger” for Grill’d – accelerating its presence in the market, driving efficiencies, and ultimately improving profitability.

“I would expect [other] QSR operators who are growing well through traditional restaurants [will watch] this closely,” he said.

Continue expanding

Beyond the new drive-thru restaurant, Crowe said that Grill’d is continuing to focus on active living and nutrition through partnerships with the Australian Institute of Sport, Melbourne Storm, and other grassroots clubs across Australia.

“The false narrative around fast food and sport is that the players actually eat the product they’re promoting which is just not the case. We’re happy to say we fuel the performance of professional athletes across AFL, NRL and the other major sporting codes nationally,” Crowe said.

Over the next financial year, he said that Grill’d is set to continue expanding with over 16 new sites set to be unveiled. The brand recently launched its first Halal restaurant. 

“Existing restaurant growth will come as we focus on two ends of the experience spectrum. One being sociability with a dine-in focus and the other being improved speed and convenience,” he said.

Social Share:



Recent News