April 13, 2021 at 05:07PM

In the past 13 months, many quick-service restaurants (QSRs) have doubled down on drive-thru, after the channel’s success during the height of the pandemic. McDonald’s, Burger King, and many other chains have been looking to modernize their drive-thru locations with quicker service and more digital ordering options. For its part, Dunkin’ rolled out its mobile order-ahead drive-thru back in 2018, and its drive-thrus have been key to boosting off-premises orders during the pandemic. Now, the chain is partnering with used car retailer CarMax to promote CarMax’s 24-hour Test Drive option and Dunkin’s drive-thru channel with their joint Doin’ Donuts campaign, which offers a $10 Dunkin’ gift card to consumers who test out a car.

The two companies announced the promotion on Monday (April 12), adding that customers who take advantage of the promotion can post to social media with a designated set of tags for a chance to win a year’s supply of free donuts. The promotion features a range of celebrity spokespeople, including “Cougar Town” and “Freaks and Geeks” actor Busy Philipps and figure skater Adam Rippon.

“You never truly know if a car is right for you until you’ve taken it through a Dunkin’ drive-thru,” Melanie Rabino, director of brand engagement at Dunkin,’ said in a statement. “Making sure your new vehicle’s cup holders perform perfectly in holding your Dunkin’ Iced Coffee, or other go-to order, is the perfect test.”

CarMax is framing the drive-thru experience as part of the daily driving routine, and thus a key part of the test drive process. “We want customers to experience a day in their life with their new ride, and since America Runs on Dunkin’, we know that includes a trip through the Dunkin’ drive-thru for their favorite order,” said Sarah Lane, vice president of marketing at CarMax. “Collaborating with Dunkin’ on ‘Doin’ Donuts’ makes CarMax’s 24-Hour Test Drive experience that much sweeter.”

By encouraging consumers to try out Dunkin’s drive-thru channel, the donut chain has the opportunity to integrate itself into more of consumers’ regular routines — and by framing the drive-thru as a key part of the in-car experience, Dunkin’ creates a powerful association for car-driving consumers.

“It’s all about providing choice,” Stephanie Meltzer-Paul, then-vice president of digital and loyalty marketing for Dunkin’, told PYMNTS of Dunkin’s off-premises mobile ordering options in an interview. “We have members that feel like, ‘Today, I don’t need on-the-go mobile ordering. I like to come in and talk to the crew; they really know me.’ They want that personal one-to-one service. We [also have customers] who feel like, ‘The drive-thru is already quick enough for me,’” she said. “We find they switch on and off, depending on what’s going on in their life.”

The drive-thru channel can be key to separating leading QSRs from their struggling counterparts. PYMNTS’ Restaurant Readiness Index, created in collaboration with Paytronix, found that the option to pick up orders at a drive-thru is available at 56 percent of top-performing restaurants. Additionally, PYMNTS and Paytronix’s October Order to Eat Tracker® found that drive-thru orders accounted for 42 percent of all restaurant trips in 2020’s second quarter, and that drive-thru ordering was up 26 percent year over year in that time.

Now that the events of 2020 have embedded drive-thru ordering more deeply into consumers’ routines than ever before, restaurants that can take advantage of this shift will have the distinct edge as we move toward a post-pandemic future.

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