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Sep 3, 2020

The next Burger King you visit might not have a dining room

What the Burger King of the future could look like

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Three drive-thru lanes. Coded lockers for food pickup. Covered patios in place of indoor dining rooms.

Burger King is considering all those options as it rethinks restaurants for a post-COVID world.

The fast-food chain owned by Restaurant Brands International Inc. unveiled potential designs Thursday for its next generation of restaurants that are smaller and use technology to minimize interaction between customers and employees. Eateries have had to rethink their operations in the coronavirus pandemic as health concerns have hurt indoor dining while boosting demand for delivery and drive-thru options.

“These designs are intended to address some of the shifts in guest behavior that we’d already been seeing, but really accelerated this year,” Josh Kobza, chief operating officer for Restaurant Brands International, said in an interview.

The first new stores are slated to be built in 2021 in Miami, Latin America and the Caribbean. The company didn’t specify which of the new features the restaurants would adopt or what they will cost to build.

The format changes suggest the pandemic could have lasting -- even permanent -- effects on the industry. While both retail stores and restaurants have instituted temporary changes to their operations, Burger King’s move is one of the first major design overhauls impacting newly built locations.

The designs are the culmination of a years-long shift in fast food to smaller stores and more digital capabilities. The Burger King store concepts feature a 60 per cent smaller physical footprint, which could mean cheaper leases, while including features such as coded lockers for retrieving mobile orders, dedicated curbside pickup spots and even a conveyor belt system to deliver food from the kitchen to drive-thru customers.