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Smashburger debuts ‘virtual drive-thru’ in Houston

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A fast-casual burger chain is connecting its drive-thru experience to online and mobile ordering.

Smashburger has opened its first “virtual drive-thru” concept at its new corporate-owned restaurant in Houston. The format allows customers to place an order online or through the Smashburger app, then pull through the designated parking lane where their food will be delivered to the driver by a store associate.

First announced in 2022, the virtual drive-thru prototype utilizes the Curbit digital ordering system, which provides customers an exact wait time for their order and the ability to track the order accurately from start to finish. With the wait time reduction provided by this new concept, Smashburger reports the experience has driven a 30% lift in customer repeat rate.

[Read more: Exclusive Q&A: Smashburger transforms drive-thru with next-gen tech]

Additionally, Smashburger says the new prototype is more environmentally friendly than a standard drive-thru, as it reduces traffic congestion and carbon emissions by minimizing the amount of time customers spend idling in the car. 

“Smashburger wants to meet our customers where they want to be met, and the increased use of mobile ordering has led us to this new virtual drive-thru design," said Carl Bachman, president of Smashburger. "We understand consumers' need for convenience, and speed of service as a result of ever-evolving dining habits stemming from the pandemic.  This design provides both.”

The addition of the new drive-thru feature gives franchisees more flexibility in their site selection process, added Bachman.

"With the new virtual drive-thru prototype providing real-time updates on order status and estimated wait times, customers can make informed decisions about their time and schedule," said Veronica Luna, director of digital business channels at Smashburger. "Although this new technology will work to streamline the customer experience, it will also provide significant benefits to our franchisees including increased speed of service, improved order accuracy, and reduced labor costs."

Founded in 2007 in Denver, Smashburger operates over 340 locations across 38 states and nine countries.

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