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More Tucson restaurants built on take-out services during pandemic

Restaurants are changing their business model after pandemic
Posted at 8:52 AM, Oct 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-17 17:32:49-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson has seen a recent increase in drive-thru and take-out method at restaurants. It was a busy start Saturday at the new Black Rock Coffee Bar near the University of Arizona.

The cafe has always had a mostly drive-thru business model.

“We started in a little 300 square foot building that’s a coffee kiosk drive-thru only,” Clay Geyer, Vice President of Operations for Black Rock Coffee Bar.

This fast, pick-up and go strategy made a big difference this past year.

“We went through a phase of closing down our lobbies and only doing drive-thru," Geyer said. "That really helped us get through the pandemic.”

It’s a model that Arizona restaurants are adapting to. According to the Arizona Restaurant Association, 5% of sales came from take-out before the pandemic. But in 2020, that number jumped to 25%.

“Drive-thrus became paramount in 2020," said Steve Chucri, President and CEO of Arizona Restaurant Association. "The value of a drive-thru, I’ve been in this job nearly 20 years, has never been more relevant or more important in my entire 20-year career.”

The association helped more than 2,500 Arizona restaurants adjust their service in the last year.

“The demand was, if I don’t have a drive-thru how can we get one," Chucri said. "I think even chipotle has now looked at how can we add drive-thrus.”

Take-out only spots popped up throughout Tucson this year. Including “By the Bucket”, which has two upcoming storefronts. It’s main selling point, quick service take-out for spaghetti and meatballs.

“It's in and out, right, you come in, get your bucket of spaghetti and you’re gone, takes about 45 seconds,” said Bret daCosta, the founder of by the bucket.

DaCosta started his franchise a year before the pandemic. While other restaurants were adjusting their business models - by the bucket grew exponentially. DaCosta says he just had the right idea at the right time.

“It allowed our business to grow because people discovered my spaghetti and they were like ‘Hey, why would I want to sit around in an Italian restaurant, I can get my spaghetti in a bucket,’” daCosta said.

If Tucson continues to follow this trend, the to-go industry is here to stay.