Why Restaurants Are Utilizing Shipping Containers [+ 9 Container Drive-Thru Examples to Make You Envious]

Drive-thrus have been a mainstay for years, providing consumers fast access to food and other goods on the go. During these socially distanced times the concept is more valuable than ever, as restaurants continue to find efficient ways to serve customers safely. One way these businesses are implementing cost-efficient processes quickly? Shipping container drive-thrus!

More restaurants than ever before are utilizing shipping containers for drive-thru specific expansions and additional space needed for their customers. 

So how might you be able to utilize shipping container restaurants? Let’s take a look at just how beneficial this route can be for restaurateurs, as well as a few of our favorite, real-world examples that are sure to inspire you. 

The Benefits of Using Shipping Containers as Restaurant Space

As mentioned, more and more restaurants are using shipping containers for their real estate needs. But why?

It all comes down to the various benefits shipping containers provide restaurants compared to other space alternatives, like using existing buildings or constructing new properties entirely.

Shipping Container Restaurant Benefit #1) Readily Available

For starters, shipping containers are readily available, in part because the U.S. imports more shipping containers than it exports. With so much supply, shipping containers can be purchased at an affordable price, whether you want a brand new container or a used one at a slightly cheaper rate.

Shipping Container Restaurant Benefit #2) Affordable

Speaking of affordable, shipping containers are pretty cost-effective. You can get a new or barely used container at a very reasonable price, and complete some modifications and interior decorating to personalize your space. That’s excellent news for would-be restaurant entrepreneurs who don’t otherwise have the capital for traditional real estate.

Shipping Container Restaurant Benefit #3) Eco-Friendly

More and more business owners are taking their environmental impact into account these days. Fortunately, shipping containers are eco-friendly and sustainable. You don’t waste or require new materials to build your restaurant from scratch. Plus, it takes less energy to move a shipping container to your restaurant location than it does to build a new building entirely.

Shipping Container Restaurant Benefit #4) Customizable

Lastly, shipping containers allow you to customize your restaurant look. They’re customizable by design, so you can ensure that your business stands out from the rest with a few modifications and some aesthetic tweaks. You can even buy open-sided containers for easy access or for shipping container drive-thru windows.

Bottom line? Shipping container restaurants are the future!

Of course, the possibilities don’t begin and end with makeshift restaurant space. Check out some other creative ways you can use and reuse shipping containers.

9 Shipping Container Drive-Thru Examples 

So how have people already leveraged shipping containers to make excellent drive-thru expansions for their business? Let’s go over a few real-world examples we love. 

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #1) Wendy’s

Check out this shipping container drive-thru for the popular fast-food chain, Wendy’s. A few different shipping containers were used for both the primary restaurant space and for the drive-thru extension on the side. It’s a great example of how even bigger restaurant companies leveraging shipping containers for greater eco-friendliness and extra savings.

Wendy's shipping container drive thru
Source: Reddit

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #2) Taco Bell

The fast-food Mexican restaurant chain, Taco Bell, has also joined in on the shipping container drive-thru craze. Just check out this sterling example of two shipping containers combined to provide a safe and convenient drive-thru solution for travelers on the nearby road. There’s also an outdoor seating area in case any of the restaurant’s customers might prefer a more traditional eating experience.

Taco bell shipping container drive thru
Source: Eater Los Angeles

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #3) Starbucks

One of the most well-known coffee shops in the industry, Starbucks has been leveraging shipping container restaurants for some time. But only recently has the company doubled down on shipping container drive-thrus.

This particular example is built with a graceful turn that allows customers to enjoy a classic Starbucks experience without any real difference between this store and the thousands of others. But there’s no doubt that this store was a lot cheaper to build, and Starbucks saved some materials by using shipping containers rather than new construction.

Starbucks Shipping container restaurant
Source: Today.com

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #4) Kahwa Coffee

Starbucks isn’t the only coffee shop to take advantage of the style and cost-efficiency that shipping containers bring to the restaurant industry. This coffee chain uses two shipping containers; one of them stacked on the other to create a kind of tunneled drive-thru experience for cars to pass through quickly and easily.

It certainly adds to the coffee shop’s overall aesthetic, and it’s a design we’re seeing more and more often in the restaurant industry as more companies catch wind of the benefits provided by shipping container drive-thrus.

coffee shop shipping container drive thru
Source: ilovetheburg.com

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #5) Dutch Bros Coffee

It seems like coffee companies can’t get enough of the eco-friendliness and cost-effectiveness that shipping containers bring to the table. This local coffee shop uses a drive-thru shipping container designed to quickly and efficiently serve its customers. Note how the coffee shop has built a drive-thru window into the shipping container wall that can slide back and forth for both worker and customer convenience.

Dutch Bros shipping container coffee shop
Source: Quickserv

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #6) Coffee Time

Low-key, single-store coffee shops are perhaps the restaurants best positioned and most benefited by shipping container drive-thrus. Maybe that’s why so many small-chain coffee shops use shipping containers both for their main restaurant space and further drive-thru options. Check out Coffee Time’s drive-thru, which even includes a bonus sitting area near the driving space for paying customers!

Coffee time shipping container drive thru
Source: Archilovers

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #7) Degani

Here’s another great example of a coffee shop that uses a single shipping container both for its primary restaurant space and for its drive-thru option.

You can see how the designers were clever with how they placed their menus right on the side of the shipping container for the convenience of their customers. It’s a small, cost-efficient store that no doubt returns a great profit when you consider the money the owners have likely saved using a shipping container instead of other materials.

shipping container coffee shop
Source: Degani

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #8) Chick-Fil-A

Of course, coffee shops aren’t the only restaurants using shipping containers in new and inventive ways. The popular restaurant, Chick-fil-A, has also used shipping containers for some of its newer stores. In this particular case, the company’s shipping container drive-thru actually extends over the customer, providing shelter from any weather related obstacles and extra lighting.

This is one of the most put together and technically advanced examples of shipping container drive-thrus you can find today.

Chick fil a shipping container drive thru
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution

Shipping Container Drive-Thru #9) Farm Stores

While not a restaurant per se, the Florida-based chain, Farm Stores, offers both fresh food and groceries for busy parents. This drive-thru design for one of its more convenient locations offers busy shoppers the opportunity to get their groceries, including fresh fruits and vegetables, in a hurry without having to step out of their cars. The two-sided drive-thru design is ambitious and effective through and through.

Farm stores shipping container drive thru
Source: CNN

Get What You Need for Your Shipping Container Restaurant From Rent-A-Container

As you can see, shipping containers are only becoming more and more popular for a variety of industries. So you’d be smart to consider adding a shipping container to your existing restaurant or developing a shipping container drive-thru with one (or more). 

Of course, your drive-thru designs will only yield success if you know where to get affordable and high-quality shipping containers. Fortunately Rent-A-Container, the best place to buy new and used shipping containers in the U.S. no matter what you’re looking for, is ready for your order.

Visit our online store and start browsing for different shipping containers based on dimensions, cost, and condition. We can help you find the perfect shipping container for your new restaurant, drive-thru expansion or other building project.

Shop Rent-A-Container!