NORWALK — For the second time this year, a popular fast food restaurant will revamp its drive-thru to help handle a surge in customers and avoid traffic backups.

The Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission voted last week to approve McDonald’s plans to build a new two-lane drive-thru at the chain’s Connecticut Avenue location.

Kelly Bohnenberger, an engineer who helped design the new drive-thru, said the franchise plans to tear down the existing drive-thru and replace it with what she called a “side-by-side” drive-thru that splits into two lanes and can take multiple orders simultaneously like the one at the main avenue location.

“Side-by-side drive-thru is McDonald’s new program,” Bohnenberger said. “They found it increased efficiency and also allowed them to have better stacking and queuing on those existing sites.”

The McDonald’s franchise, which is owned by Bridgeport-based Trefz Family Restaurants, is the second fast-food chain on Connecticut Avenue this year to overhaul its drive-thrus due to congestion concerns.

Chick-fil-A won city approval in March to build a larger drive-thru to help handle a surge in customer numbers. Like McDonald’s, the fried chicken chain said the pandemic has led to an increase in drive-thru orders.

According to an application filed with the city, McDonald’s existing single-lane drive-thru can accommodate up to 14 vehicles before customers are forced to line up on Connecticut Avenue.

The planned two-lane configuration, however, will be able to serve up to 17 vehicles, a 21% increase in capacity over the current configuration.

“The concept of increasing the length of the queue can definitely help get cars off the street and forward faster,” said Steve Kleppin, the city’s director of planning and zoning, to the commission before the board unanimously approves the project.

Bohnenberger said restaurant workers will be able to track drive-thru customers using special cameras that can read license plates. The system, she said, will ensure customers receive the correct order when they consolidate into a single lane before reaching the pickup window.

Despite installing a larger drive-thru, delivery trucks will still be able to drive in and out of the restaurant’s tight parking lot, Bohnenberger said.

As well as reducing the average queuing time, engineers argued in the application that the new drive-thru will improve safety on the busy road, which sees nearly 60,000 vehicle journeys each day.

“The proposed replacement of the ‘traditional’ drive-thru layout with a ‘side-by-side’ drive-thru should support existing drive-thru queues, improving site safety,” they said. wrote the engineers in the application.


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