Fast Food Brand Strategy Marketing

Gail’s bakery opens drive-thrus, could it help change the face of the brand?


By Michelle Du-Prat, Strategy Director and Co-Founder

March 8, 2023 | 6 min read

Gail’s bakery is to open 10 drive-thrus, joining the likes of Starbucks and Krispy Kreme. Michelle Du-Prât, co-founder of the design and experience agency Household, says it will show a new side to Gail’s brand.

Bougie London bakery gets fleet of drive-thru stores

Bougie London bakery gets fleet of drive-thru stores

Every brand is in the convenience business, whether they like it or not. From luxury fashion to airlines, home stores, and burger bars, the opportunity across these categories is one that continues to tap into the core need of ‘simply getting it quicker’.

In the food world, shifts in how people live, work and eat have revolutionized traditional mealtimes. A study by BENEO in 2022 found that one in two customers globally say they sometimes replace meals with a quick bite. It’s these trends, coupled with post-Covid behaviors and working from home that is disrupting traditional retail formats and the ‘drive-thru’. The ways in which brands show up, serve, and connect with new communities up and down the country, and across the world, have evolved.

Switching into a new gear

Gail’s got the memo and has jumped on board with getting out to where people are, to drive its expansion plans beyond the current London local, bougie hotspots. Beyond home delivery services already offered, Gail’s has followed the likes of Starbucks, Leon, Costa and our favorite burger brands by now moving into the world of the drive-thru. It’s a real opportunity to potentially show customers a new side of the brand – one that can live in a more responsive way (beyond London) and bring Gail’s desirable quality food offering and ethos together with ultimate convenience: not having to leave your car to eat well.

Being faster with focus keeps people happy and more importantly, brings them back. Future success for brands in this evolving growth space will be through adaptation of the call to action, language, menu and service experience. All are essential to tap into non-traditional ways of eating on the move or at home. Jack’s in the US is doing just this with its range experience development; it is part branded productization and part meal solution, inviting customers to eat at whatever time they want, not just at the traditional meal times of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Within this offering are Brunchfast and Munchie Meals, with the aim of nailing both the meal and snacking market at the same time.

Gail’s drive-thru journey

The big challenge for Gail’s will be to help their fans continue to access the Gail’s they know and love in new ways. Think the Tesla of drive-thru’s – Gail’s iconic menu, service experience and love of food, combined with a few more bells and whistles that bring fun and quality into service and speed that makes that continued connection. This is the stuff that will grow Gail’s fame, fans and fortune across the country in a way that’s contemporary, relevant and authentic. Done right, Gail might just be the key to ending the copy-and-paste experience popping up in retail parks and service stations across the country.

After all, if Krispy Kreme can do 24-hour drive-thrus, enticing folk with all-day doughnuts, Gail’s can put a new spin on all-day dining, reaching food fans in-car, at home, or anywhere else for that matter.

Drive-thrus 2.0

We also know automation is gathering pace with customers, enabling them to engage fast on their own terms. From frictionless walk-out working tech pioneered by Amazon Fresh to McDonald’s AI-integrated drive-thru experiences, brands are pushing boundaries on new community experiences designed to elevate self-serve experiences. For drive-thru specifically, since its appearance in the 80s, it’s moving into a new iteration. According to NPD Group, drive-thrus are increasing year-on-year, with those across the UK taking in over £2.8bn last year, excluding a £3bn hike during the pandemic. The tech is also quickly evolving to meet a variety of purchase choices, with optimization in unison with apps to service more customers through multi-lane systems from the comfort of their own vehicle, like Taco Bell Defy in Minneapolis.

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These types of experiences and innovations are driving a new legion of food fans, expectant to do more for themselves and enjoy themselves while doing it to their own soundtrack.

The thing is, drive-thrus are becoming car park-like and more functional – not an inspiring or familiar face of a branded food experience. Essentially, you need to know what you want or order ahead, and whatever you do, get in your lane!

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