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Combine Americans' longstanding love affair with their cars with their increasingly time-constrained lifestyles, and it's easy to understand the proliferation of drive-through businesses. Drive-through banks and fast-food restaurants have been with us for years; more recent developments have included drive-through dry cleaning, drugstores and, yes, convenience stores.
And now there's Mollie's, a new drive-through concept, with two locations in Smyrna and Kennesaw, Ga. According to CEO and president Bill Dumont, "Mollie's provides drive-through buying of fresh-baked gourmet foods and necessity items like milk and eggs. It's a neat concept." And, indeed, a look at Mollie's menu shows a variety of food items that one wouldn't normally expect at a drive-through — and why foodservice makes up 45 percent of the store's business.
Mollie's offers a variety of specialty coffees, available in either 12- or 20-ounce servings, as well as in large 96- and 120-ounce take-to-work or home cartons. In addition to fresh-brewed 100-percent Colombian, Mollie's features espresso, café latte, cappuccino and iced coffee and tea. The coffee is supplied by Douwe Egberts, the high-end coffee division of Sara Lee/Superior coffees.
A big part of Mollie's foodservice offering are the items made and delivered fresh daily by the popular Atlanta-based Buckhead Bread Company, a gourmet bakery and cafe. "We're the only reseller of Buckhead products," said Dumont. A variety of cookies, brownies and blondies are available individually or in packages of six. Breakfast items, priced from $1 to $1.50, include bear claws, cinnamon buns, croissants, plain and flavored bagels and an assortment of muffins. The famed Buckhead breads and gourmet pizza are big sellers, too.
While both stores are open till 10 p.m. seven days a week, it's the Monday-to-Friday lunch crowd that forms the bulk of Mollie's foodservice business. Gourmet sandwiches (all served on French boule) and salads are made and delivered fresh daily, and there is a "Bag Lunch Special," consisting of any sandwich with a small bag of chips or a side salad, a cookie and a drink, all for $7.50. It's the perfect lunch for the on-the-go customer.
At dinnertime, customers can order from four specials posted on the blackboard outside the store. The specials change daily, and are complete entrees ready to take home and be microwaved. The meals, which range from shrimp dishes to pasta, are priced from $7.99 to $10.99.
Mollie's also has a growing catering business, Dumont said, particularly at the Smyrna location, which has more of a business district.
Lunches and dinners are supplied by the Mill Street Cafe, a restaurant in nearby Marietta, which delivers daily between 10:30 and 11 a.m. Buckhead Bread Company delivers at 4 a.m.
If all this sounds geared to a different kind of c-store customer, you're right. "We're planning our sites around a certain demographic," said Dumont. "That demographic is decidely upscale and female. In fact, 75 percent of our customer base is women, and about 50 percent of our drive-through customers are women with kids in the car." Most of the dinners Mollie's sells are for families. "We don't get a lot of single guys driving up to pick up dinner," he added.
Customers can call or fax ahead, and their order is ready when they arrive. Or, they can order at the transaction window, and their purchase will be ready within 90 seconds. Mollie's also offers its complete menu of food, as well as convenience items, on its Web site (www.mollies.com). Customers can print out the menu and fax it over with their order.
Speaking of convenience items, Mollie's has a full range of c-store products, including grocery foods and supplies, baby needs, pet needs, snacks, cigarettes, candy, drinks and personal items. Perhaps the only common c-store items not available are beer and wine, but Dumont hopes to get permits soon.
While business so far has been strong — both stores have only opened within the last three months — Dumont has had some surprises along the way. For one thing, Mollie's was developed as a drive-through-only concept, "but now 20 percent of our business is actually walk-up. Some customers just need to come into a store and see product on the shelves, so we've accommodated that," he said.