Drive-thru dominates even as dine-in restrictions ease

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FILE - This April 9, 2020 file photo shows a McDonald's sign in Wheeling, Ill. McDonalds saw stronger U.S. same-store sales in the July-September period, indicating customers preference for drive-thru and delivery remained strong even as lockdown restrictions eased. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Even with cities like New York relaxing rules for dining in, sales figures from chains like McDonalds and Domino’s Pizza on Thursday suggest that most people continue to favor keeping their distance.

Comparable-store U.S. sales at McDonald's rose 4.6% in the three months ending in September, after a decline of 8.7% in the second quarter.

At Domino's the same figure, from U.S. stores open at least a year, jumped 17.5%, topping the 16% growth in the previous quarter.

In contrast, at overseas McDonald’s locations, where drive-thru windows are less common, same-store sales dipped compared with a year ago. In McDonald’s key European markets of France, U.K. and Germany, for example, just two-thirds of restaurants offer drive-thru.

Domino's said its same-store sales overseas climbed 6.2% as stores in hard-hit markets like India and Spain reopened and more business migrated to delivery.

Nearly all U.S. McDonald’s have drive-thru windows and its delivery business is rising. Domino's, a pioneer in the delivery business, has also introduced car-side delivery at nearly all U.S. stores.

Fast food chains have done much better throughout the pandemic compared with chains that rely in dining rooms almost exclusively.

Visits to full service, sit-down restaurants plummeted 48% in the second quarter year-over-year, compared with a decline of only 17% decline in the same period for fast food chains, according to NPD Group, a data and consulting firm.