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As drive-thrus get bigger, some cities aren’t lovin’ it

Kai Ryssdal and Sean McHenry Apr 18, 2024
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Cars swarm the drive-thrus at a CosMc's in Bolingbrook, Illinois. The brand, owned by McDonald's, only serves customers in drive-thru lanes. Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images

As drive-thrus get bigger, some cities aren’t lovin’ it

Kai Ryssdal and Sean McHenry Apr 18, 2024
Heard on:
Cars swarm the drive-thrus at a CosMc's in Bolingbrook, Illinois. The brand, owned by McDonald's, only serves customers in drive-thru lanes. Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images
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Drive-thru lanes were one of the winners in the COVID-19 economy. In 2022, the firm Revenue Management Solutions found that approximately 75% of fast-food sales were made in them. And while that share of sales has come down, fast-food chains are still building drive-thrus.

Chipotle reported that nearly 88% of the 271 stores it opened last year had a “Chipotlane” drive-thru, and CosMc’s, a McDonald’s spinoff brand that debuted last year, is currently a drive-thru-only experience.

Yet many cities don’t share this enthusiasm, citing walkability and safety issues. In 2019, Minneapolis banned the construction of new drive-thrus, and last year, Atlanta banned drive-thru construction near a walk and bike path called the BeltLine.

“Many cities in recent years have been realizing that there are some major drawbacks to the car-dependent style of development that has dominated the U.S. since World War II,” said Marina Bolotnikova, deputy editor at Vox. They’ve “started to implement things to claw some of those things back and basically make their communities more walkable.”

Bolotnikova wrote about the tension between what she calls mega drive-thrus — those with two or more lanes — and city planning. To listen to her conversation with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal, use the media player above.

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