Those of us who were around 20 years ago may remember the Fotomat huts that popped up in shopping center parking lots all around the country. They were kiosks about the size of a toll booth and had a similar drive up window. You drove up, dropped off your film to be developed or drove through to pick up your pictures. Obviously, Fotomats have gone the way of film and developing and are no longer around, but at the time, it was an amazingly convenient service.

A former Fotomat in our town was converted to a drive-up coffee hut. You can stay in your car, order your latte and be on your way. It, too, is incredibly convenient either in inclement weather (which is a plenty here), or with car-seated children, or in many other situations in which getting out of the car is a hassle.

There are the standard drive-up bank windows and fast food restaurants, and now many places have drive-up pharmacies, but I wonder why the drive-up phenomenon hasn’t become more pervasive. Why aren’t there drive-through post offices or copy shops?  Or even Chinese restaurants or pizzerias? 

Couldn’t people convert old banks into service enterprises with stay-in-your-car convenience? Or just add a drive through window as they do for food or pharmacies — so if you knew which book you wanted, you could stay in your car at the library or bookstore, but if you wanted to go browse you could. 

I think there is an opportunity here to add an element of distinction and service in many more establishments than take advantage of it today. Think about your organization: what do people “run in and do?” Perhaps you could reconfigure some space to take the running out of doing errands.

beth triplett

Fotomat turned coffee bar

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