Where did the drive-thru come from and what it means for you.

I’m trying to eat healthier.  I really am.  And when I’m in Florida this weekend for the Orlando Film Festival, I’m going to do everything I can to resist cruising through the 1,873 fast-food drive-thrus I’ll pass from the airport to my hotel.  I will probably fail at least 1 2 7 times.

Do you know where the drive-thru came from?

I didn’t either, until I read the story in an article by this direct marketing guy who used it as an example of something that we in the theater need to do soooo much more of.

The guy that came up with the concept for the fast-food drive-thru did what a whole bunch of innovators do.  He stole it.

The first drive-thru wasn’t at a fast-food place.  It was in a bank.

Banks were getting drive-thru customers for years, taking deposits and delivering cash, sometimes through those cool vacuum tubey things.  (Love that sound, don’t you?)  All this was happening years before fourteen-year-olds started taking french fry orders through muffled microphones.

Some smart thinker went to a bank one day, made a deposit, remarked at how cool the vacuum sound was, and then said, “Why don’t we do this for french fries?”

And boom . . . this weekend I’ll be eating and driving all thanks to that dude.

To innovate our own industry we must look to others.  This is especially true for the theater, since we tend to lag about ten years behind the modern business world.  And if you want tips on where to look, I’d examine other perishable inventory industries like the multi-billion dollar airline or hotel industries (especially the luxury vacation portion, which like theater tickets, aren’t a compulsory purchase).

But open your eyes even wider when you’re at the bank, or the doctor’s office, or yeah, even at a fast-food chain.  Is there something simple that they’ve been doing that could revolutionize what we are doing?


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.