There’s been a resurgence of interest in drive-through solutions for c-stores, but Americans have always liked the option to stay in their car.

With availability for indoor retail and dining over the past few years somewhat unpredictable, some convenience store operators have begun to consider drive-through solutions more seriously than ever, challenging though they might be to implement.

It may be a recent point of emphasis for the c-store industry, but truth be told, Americans have liked the drive-through model for almost as long as they’ve liked cars. Take the drive-in theater, for example. The New York Film Academy suspects there were drive-ins as long ago as the 1910s (which might have played the silent version of Frankenstein), but the first generally-accepted theater under the stars opened on June 6, 1933 in New Jersey.

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All kinds of other businesses have adapted the strategy over the years. Drive through banks date back to the 1920s. The drive-through pharmacy has been around for half a decade or so. Drive-through liquor stores are legion.

Still, consumer enthusiasm for the drive-through concept is at its highest when it’s applied to ordering and consuming food. No less an authority in the History Channel identifies a Texas chain known as the Pig Stand as the first brand to feature drive through way back in 1921. More details can be found in History’s original post, which includes some interesting opinions on the effect of drive-through dining in the U.S.

Here’s an MIT article that takes a thorough look at the drive-through grocers of the 1920s, which by the looks of things weren’t all that rare.[2] And as for Quick Serve restaurants, more than one source identifies Red’s Giant Hamburg in Missouri as the original drive-through, opening for business in 1947. (In-and-Out just missed; it was established in 1948).

As for convenience stores . . . well, it turns out that the drive-through trend isn’t completely new. Farm Stores claims they’ve been doing it successfully since 1957, and their store made out of recycled materials is kind of cool. As for other examples of drive-through convenience:

  • Wawa opened a new experimental drive-through last year.
  • This OPIE store in South Carolina has a compact but attractive design.
  • Here’s a mini-drive-through concept from New Jersey.
  • You know “Drive-thru Convenience Stores” are really a thing when you can find an entire page of TikToks about them.
  • Bringing this post full circle, here’s a story about a drive-in theater that is becoming a c-store.

Whether you are a convenience store owner taking the plunge into drive-through, or pursuing  additional revenue streams in other ways, SSCS software is adaptable enough and powerful enough to fuel your growth. Market trends come and go—we’ve seen more than a few of them in our 40 years—but the benefit of evolving computerization for a c-store never gets old. Give us a call if you’d like to explore what we can do together, at 1-800-972-7727.


[1] If you want to experience the drive-in theater for yourself, we’d advise against waiting too long. There are only 336 left. This interactive map will help you find one.

[2] If you’re interested in a 1920’s drive-through concept that didn’t work, this Gizmodo article is for you.