From retail destinations, office amenities, new services, and sustainable design, we’re seeing a surge in the desire to reconnect with the great outdoors across every consumer-facing environment. In our latest series, Our Return to the Great Outdoors we’ll share how brands can embrace this trend to create both safe and memorable outdoor experiences that will resonate with consumers long after COVID-19 fades.

In times of uncertainty, consumer expectations don’t change completely—they simply evolve, pivot, and accelerate, raising the bar and amplifying the demand for new, relevant experiences. A growing trend as consumers gravitate toward more convenient services, road and curbside experiences of all shapes and sizes are becoming more and more essential, especially as COVID-19 pushes brands to offer outdoor and contact-less services. In part two of this series we explore the experiences and services that keep people outside and on the road, in addition we’ll identify what brands are doing to bring this to the forefront of their experiences:

Drive-Thru Only

With a growing number of consumers ordering takeout instead of dining in due to COVID-19, restaurant and food brands have had to adapt to more efficient service models that support new consumer behaviors. Even before the pandemic, we saw an uptick in these convenience focused concepts, but today they have grown even more essential.

  • Restaurant table reservation app Resy is hosting a 10-course drive-thru dinner experience in Hollywood, CA. Catered by these high-end chefs, the model could help bringing luxury dining back to life. Guests will be served food in single-use containers and be given a lap tray to keep. Each car will have its own designated waiter who will guide them through the courses.

    Resy Drive-Thru Experience | RESY

  • At KFC’s first drive-thru only concept located in Australia, the goal was to develop a unique operating model that celebrated this change in consumer behavior and gravitation toward technology. The drive-thru has multiple lanes that allow customers to order and pay for a meal through the brand’s smartphone app or website, including designated lanes for more traditional, on-the-spot orders. Traditionally, the restaurant is the hero experience, but in this case, it’s the drive-thru. 

KFC Drive-Thru | NELSON Worldwide

Creative Curbside Pickup

With the rapid growth of e-commerce and a global pandemic causing retail developments to limit capacity or temporarily close, transforming underutilized space into creative pickup and return concepts is a clever and valuable way to meet consumer demands now and in the future:

Click-and-Collect | NELSON Worldwide

  • Looking to capture more off-premises business during and post-pandemic, Shake Shack announced plans to incorporate and add interior and exterior pickup windows to its stores. The new concept dubbed Shake Track is the start of a trend we will see implemented in restaurants and food concepts around the world.

Shake Track Pickup Window | Shake Shack


In-Car Entertainment

Seeking new ways to connect with their communities and enhance their lives post-pandemic, consumers have turned to new, COVID-safe ways to entertain themselves. As a result, an old pastime has resurged giving consumers socially distant options to enjoy themselves. Around the world, many variations of the classic drive-in movie experience has been reimagined: 

  • This Halloween, Hulu is engaging fans and customers with a socially distant drive-thru and scary movie experience. Hulu is taking over the L.A. Equestrian Center for some spooky screenings ahead of Halloween where guests can drive thru a haunted forest of jump scares and spooky scenery called Huluween.

Huluween Drive-In Experience | Hulu

  • The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Toronto recently announced the world’s first drive-in art experience. Cleverly called, Gogh By Car, this new-age art experience is an immersive show of art, light, sound, movement, and imagination. The space can accommodate 14 vehicles per time slot and participants must park and turn off their engines to enjoy the 35-minute show from inside their cars.

Gogh By Car | Immersive Vincent Van Gogh Exhibit