National Drive-Thru Day is July 24 and at Amy’s Drive Thru, that’s cause for celebration. Unlike other fast-food restaurants, Amy’s Drive Thru’s five California locations — Rohnert Park, San Francisco International Airport, Corte Madera, Roseville, and Thousand Oaks — offer a full menu of organic options that are totally tasteworthy. And on top of that, Amy’s is completely committed to making the planet a better place. Socially responsible policy and great eats: Sounds like something to celebrate, right?
The Evolution of the American Drive-Thru
The American drive-thru restaurant is a tradition that dates back to the late 1940s. While folks could order meals and eat in their cars a decade earlier, restaurants that offered an authentic drive-thru experience evolved as speed and convenience became increasingly attractive to eateries hoping to bump up profit margins with high turnover and lower costs. Busy customers looking for a quick, inexpensive fix to sate their hunger fueled the fast-food juggernaut as well.
Unfortunately, the demands of mass production often meant cutting corners, which resulted in unforeseen consequences. Products developed to meet the burgeoning fast-food market were often less than healthy — to put it mildly. Chemical additives, saturated fats, and meat-based menu staples (sometimes of questionable origin) became standard drive-thru fare. But even so, lured by convenience, low prices, and addictive flavor profiles, fast-food consumption skyrocketed. Decades later, America’s obsession with fast food had taken an alarming toll — not only on public health, but on the planet as well.
While better eating practices, more eco-friendly packaging, and increased carbon-efficient food production have been gaining tremendous ground in both traditional restaurant and home-cooking scenarios, the fast food industry has been slow to embrace the change. Until recently, fast food customers looking for better-for-you choices were either ignored or placated with extremely limited menu options. But growing awareness has led consumers to push back. Judging by the enthusiastic customer response to the Amy’s Drive Thru experience, however, the time is right for a fast food revolution — and Amy’s is leading the charge.
Real Food Is the Driving Force Behind Amy’s Drive Thru
As an offshoot of Amy’s Kitchen, which describes itself on its website as “prepared food company that spends countless hours in our kitchens, cooking authentic great-tasting food with high-quality, meticulously sourced organic ingredients,” opening a chain of restaurants that broadened its customer base while delivering a dining experience typifying the company’s core beliefs was a natural progression.
“We’ve always started — from the very first day — with this premise that every meal we serve should be good enough, taste good enough that we would serve it to our closest friends and family,” notes Amy’s Kitchen President Paul Schiefer. “And the way to do that is by finding the highest quality ingredients, working directly with farmers and growers on varieties and processing techniques so we get the best thing to begin with.”
Another policy that’s served Amy’s Kitchen well that’s carried over to its drive-thru business is an unwavering commitment to creating and maintaining an intuitive, holistic kitchen-based process. “We’re really cooking food, not manufacturing it — which means we use real herbs and spices, we saute onions, we saute garlic, we build roux. And we really make food, again, like you would expect to see it being made in a home kitchen,” Schiefer says, adding, “We’ve shied away from the traditional manufacturing approach, which is often somewhat unrecognizable compared to how you and I think about the food we make.”
When planning food offerings for Amy’s Kitchen and menu items for Amy’s Drive Thru, Schiefer says they always take a “creative-first approach.” Most food companies start with scientists, data analysts, research and development technicians, and financial consultants, he explains, but he believes such an approach is counterintuitive to a truly enjoyable consumer dining experience.
“You get to this kind of little teeny box, this product has to hit these attributes, this margin, do all these things before you can make something creative,” Schiefer says. “Well, we don’t like that approach because we don’t think creativity really fits in small boxes. It needs a big canvas to express itself. So we go out and eat great food, eat it with our family, with our friends, with our employees. That could be here in our offices with guest chefs. That can be out at restaurants, literally all across the world.
“The typical journey of a recipe starts with a meal that we really love, a product that’s like, ‘Oh, that was unique, I would eat that again.’ And then we bring it inward and then we do all the traditional stuff. Does it fit within a category? Could we actually make this at scale? Could we find the ingredients that we need? And then we go through a process starting with making that dish in a small kitchen, to how do we then scale it to something we can make every day.”
Amy’s Drive Thru Puts Patrons First
The customer may not always be right, but in the world according to Amy’s, they must always be listened to. Delivering the ultimate organic food experience is Amy’s chief objective. “That’s why we exist as a company,” Schiefer asserts. “Each meal we make is designed to be enjoyed by a person, and that person’s experience deeply matters to us. It’s not just a transaction, it’s a meal occasion. We believe every meal matters, and therefore, every sentiment a consumer has about that meal matters deeply.”
Schiefer believes Amy’s customer-centric focus will continue to fuel the company’s expansion. “While we’ve done a lot of great work, we have some great foundational principles to build on, we know we can do more. We’ve got this great opportunity in Amy’s Drive Thru, and we certainly see that continuing to grow.”
Schiefer foresees launching more Amy’s Drive Thru locations, initially across California, and hopefully across the country in the not too distant future. “What we absolutely know is that when you try Amy’s, you love Amy’s, and we have some of the highest loyalty and repeat rates of any food brand. So, certainly getting Amy’s to more people, enjoyed by more people will be a big part of it,” he says.
Sounds like soon enough, satisfied customers might be celebrating National Drive-Thru Day at Amy’s from sea to shining sea.