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Drive Through vs. Pick Up: Adapting to the Changing Coffee Shop Landscape

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In the ever-evolving world of coffee shop businesses, adaptability is key to staying ahead. Two of the most prevalent service models that have been making waves recently are the traditional drive-through and the newer pick-up service. 

As the coffee industry continues to navigate the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and changing consumer preferences, coffee shop owners must explore both options and determine which best suits their business goals.

Drive-Through: The Classic Convenience

Drive-through coffee shops have long been a symbol of convenience for busy individuals on the go. These establishments allow customers to remain in the comfort of their vehicles while still enjoying their favorite brew. Drive-throughs have carved a niche in the coffee industry by providing quick, efficient service, making them a favorite for morning commuters and those with tight schedules.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many industries, coffee shops included.

Social distancing measures and lockdowns forced coffee shop owners to rethink their business models. In this context, the classic drive-through faced challenges, such as long queues and difficulty maintaining a safe distance between employees and customers.

Pick-Up Service: Adapting to the “New Normal”

Enter the pick-up service, a model that gained popularity during the pandemic. It offers a contactless and efficient way for customers to get their coffee fix. In this model, customers can place their orders remotely—via phone, app, or website—pay, and then simply pick up their orders at a designated location. 

This method addresses health and safety concerns and offers flexibility by requiring only a parking or pick-up area.

One of the critical advantages of pick-up service is its adaptability. Coffee shop owners can implement this model in various locations, from urban centers to suburban neighborhoods, without extensive construction or expensive drive-through infrastructure.

Moreover, modern Point of Sale (POS) systems are more than capable of handling the logistics of pick-up service, streamlining the ordering and payment processes.

Benefits of Non-Franchise Models

Non-franchise coffee shop models, in particular, offer owners the unique advantage of adaptability, allowing them the creative freedom to tailor their service model to the specific needs of their community and respond swiftly to changing market dynamics.

Choosing the Right Service Model for Your Coffee Shop

The choice between drive-through and pick-up service ultimately depends on several factors, including your target audience, location, and business objectives. For instance, a drive-through might still be your best bet if you’re in a high-traffic area with limited parking space.

On the other hand, pick-up service could be the way forward if you’re looking to reduce physical contact, cater to a tech-savvy clientele, or expand into diverse locations.

Remember, the success of your coffee shop isn’t solely determined by the service model you choose; it’s also influenced by the quality of your products, customer service, and marketing strategies. The key is to stay attuned to the evolving preferences of your customers and be prepared to adapt as needed.


In the dynamic landscape of coffee shop businesses, the choice between drive-through and pick-up service is not an either/or proposition. Coffee shop owners can leverage the strengths of each model to create a hybrid approach that suits their unique needs. 

Whether you opt for the timeless convenience of a drive-through or the modern flexibility of pick-up service, the goal remains the same: providing exceptional coffee and service to your loyal customers. 

By staying agile and responsive to changing times, your coffee shop, like a perfectly brewed cup of coffee, can continue to delight and satisfy patrons in any circumstance.