Our world is fast…the faster the better it seems – turbo cars, lightning-fast communications, express delivery, supersonic travel, and fast food. Doing things fast is the American way, often equated with getting things done, increased efficiency, and moving on to the next big thing. However, the COVID-19 virus brought our world to a screeching and unexpected halt when it made its equally fast appearance on the American scene. Seemingly overnight, fast wasn’t nearly as important and life slowed to a pace we hadn’t seen – possibly in our lifetime.
FAST. AND FASTER STILL
When things slowed down, consumers became concerned with feeding their families easily, quickly, and safely. Almost overnight, contactless drive-throughs, already utilized throughout the country, offered up a safe and readily accessible alternative. But just because fast food restaurants are equipped with existing drive-through infrastructure didn’t mean they had the capacity to service the ever-growing demand. With Americans flocking to them, “fast” slowed down substantially as the establishments struggled to accommodate the increasing lines and improve on dramatically-growing wait times.
As the pandemic continued, drive-through sales skyrocketed and currently account for over 90% of sales for a number of the biggest restaurant players. One national pizza chain reported a 30% increase in income during Q2 of 2020, while another chain noted a 43% increase in the number of drive-through visits in just one month after the pandemic began. Other factors influencing the rapid rise of fast-food visits include convenience, escalating grocery prices, and children relegated to home with parents scrambling to balance work-from-home, online education, and feeding their families.
“Situations like these are where teamwork and internal communication can make or break a project. Fortunately, we’ve been able to execute under pressure, and bring a finished product to the table that we are proud of.” – Josiah Kotte
FAST MATTERS MORE THAN EVER…BUT HOW DO YOU GET THERE?
In 2020, just before the pandemic hit, Tamarack Grove Engineering (TGE) actively expanded its reach in the fast-food franchise market. The firm was fully immersed in site adapting prototypical designs with a quickly-expanding national fast-food restaurant when COVID forced both the client and TGE to rapidly reassess the affects of the pandemic. The immediate challenge was how to accurately interpret what was happening globally and incorporating the impact into a plan to keep pace with the demand for safe, speedy, and efficient drive-through food service.
COVID compelled changes to the overall prototype for existing facilities, projects in progress, and new projects alike. In quick response, TGE collaborated with a national architecture firm to adjust the prototype design associated with single drive-throughs to create a double drive-through system, instantly doubling service capacity. Double drive throughs lessened auto back up and wait time and allowed restaurants to move people through lines quickly and efficiently. Modifications to existing and new facilities coming on-line – with insufficient space to accommodate a double drive-through – required structure retrofits via a reduced building footprint to reclaim enough usable land to develop the drive-throughs. In some cases where retrofit and application of the new prototypes were not practical or possible, substitution in exterior materials was required.
The prototype was further revised to reflect larger capacity in outdoor seating, increased patio size, reduction of dining areas, outdoor wash stations, and enclosed payment structures as well as high-volume-capacity kitchens to, literally, keep lines moving. The ability of restaurants to pivot and adjust in response to recommendations from TGE resulted in increased profitability for the clients and TGE becoming a preferred consultant for prototypical work during the crisis.
DELIVERING ON DELIVERY
The prototype is continuously evolving and changing as clients identify issues or circumstances in the field needing remedy. Further, prototypes must be updated or changed depending upon location and/or to accommodate specific regions or site limitations. TGE is continually responding to ongoing needs for site adaptations and changes to prototypical models in real time. “Tamarack Grove Engineering has been an invaluable partner in executing our high-volume retail and quick service restaurant roll out efforts over the years. They are always willing to go the extra mile and are consistently on-time and accurate with solutions” said Brian Quinn, Principal of ADA Architects, Inc.
And while physical locations often dictate design modification, local codes and regulations in some jurisdictions strictly limit or specify the types of materials to be used in construction – like prototype specifications using wood in one region may be redesigned with steel in another.
Throughout COVID, TGE’s typical delivery schedule has been tested and the firm has learned to adapt to meet new scheduling requirements. “Situations like these are where teamwork and internal communication can make or break a project. Fortunately, STG has executed under pressure and brings finished products to the table that we are proud of,” said TGE’s Josiah Kotte, E.I.
Quick turnaround time, knowledge, and commitment to modifications have been driving factors in TGE’s ability to maintain tight schedules, despite the inherent challenges.
The firm’s knowledge of site-specific considerations, gained through prototypical design delivery on a national level are vastly different location to location and often include factors such as landscape, permitting requirements, and environmental conditions. Pandemic notwithstanding, national prototype design work also comes with inherent challenges often dictated by different regions such as:
Accommodating heavy snow loads and measures to stop snow flow
Shed roofs on parapet walls to provide drainage
Challenges with facade materials dictated by local authorities
Overhang requirements necessitating expanded mechanical areas
Various unique local codes that impact design
Whatever the circumstance or challenge, the TGE team leads with purpose, offering a combination of expertise, love for design, and problem-solving founded on relationships and a legacy of serving the industry. The firm is passionate about building people, projects, and places — wherever they may be.
“TGE is always willing to go the extra mile and is consistently on-time and accurate with solutions.” – Brian Quinn, Principal ADA Architects, INC