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UK’s drive-throughs step up a gear as posh brands take to the road

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I t usually conjures images of Big Macs and fries, but drive-through dining is undergoing an upmarket makeover complete with sourdough sandwiches and street food as demand for meals on wheels accelerates in the UK.The posh bakery chain Gail’s is the latest high-street brand to set its sights on roadside dining, putting its feelers out for 10 sites in south-east England where it can serve expensive bagels and brioches through car windows.But it is not the only brand swapping high streets for A roads and roundabouts as the drive-through moves upmarket.

The fast food chain Leon, which positions itself as a healthy option with its grilled halloumi wraps and baked fries, and the premium burger chain Five Guys have already taken the plunge.The street food chain Chaiiwala recently opened the first Indian-themed one in Bolton, Greater Manchester, serving aloo tikka burgers and masala chips to drivers, and the noodle bar Chopstix has just got the go ahead for one at Markham Vale services in Derbyshire.Analysts say there is now a race for space.

Thomas Rose, a co-founder of the real estate consultancy P-Three, describes demand as “going crazy”, with brands looking for more than 300 sites a year. “There’s so much demand that supply can’t really keep up.

There is a finite number of plots of land by a roundabout or busy bit of road, so we are seeing increased competition for locations and rents are going up.”Drive-throughs have been around since the 80s when McDonald’s opened the first one in Fallowfield, Manchester, but have not had the same impact here as in America, not least given a desire to reduce car use and tackle obesity.

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