Analysis: Salt Lakers looking at clogged arterials with two new drive-thrus on the way within a block of each other

Salt Lakers are set to see the solidification of years of car-centric street design when two notoriously popular fast food chains that attract long drive-thru lines come to town within a block of each other in the coming months.

Burger joint In-N-Out and chicken finger fryer Raising Cane’s are poised to bring their notorious followings of fast-food fans who are at times willing to spend hours in their cars waiting for food to South Salt Lake and Salt Lake City.

The developments will continue the slow-going and car-first development of South Salt Lake’s new “downtown,” near State Street and 2100 South. They will help to lock both roads into a car-dominant present and future, even while developers show a strong interest in adding housing along the corridor.

Raising Cane’s has been approved in South Salt Lake, near 2190 S. State. In-N-Out is going through Salt Lake City’s design review process at 2100 S. State.

Both outlets have proven to be at times problematic in cities and towns across the nation, as hordes of people hop into cars and wait for food.

The restaurants’ popularity has led cities across the nation to try and protect themselves from the traffic and pollution from people sitting in idling cars for hours on end. 

Not South Salt Lake.

A vote by the city’s Planning Commission earlier this year paved the way for the addition of yet another car-centric business in what the small town calls its downtown district. Construction is underway. 

Next door, WinCo Foods has a parking lot that sits largely empty much of the time. 

Raising Cane’s

  • Parcel: 0.778 acres
  • Restaurant: 0.07 acres (8.9% of total parcel)
  • Landscaping: 0.21 acres (27% of total parcel)
  • Parking/Drive-thru: 0.49 acres (64.1% of total parcel)

In-N-Out

  • Parcel: 1.124 acres
  • Restaurant: 0.08 acres (7% of total parcel)
  • Landscaping: (26% of total parcel)
  • Parking/Drive-thru: (67% of total parcel)

Raising Cane’s asked Building Salt Lake to help spread the word about the debut of its first Utah location when it opened in South Jordan this June. We didn’t. But that didn’t stop a line of over 150 people in cars willing to sit in them for extended periods of time for battered and fried poultry.

People visiting the South Salt Lake location won’t have direct access from State Street (unless they’re walking). Instead, motorists will access it either from 2100 South just west of State Street or from Utopia Avenue.

Burger lovers rejoiced when we first reported that In-N-Out would open on two parcels just north of the city boundary, in Salt Lake City.

Corridor Commercial zoning allows for drive-thru businesses by-right, though the California-based company needs approval for other changes, including to make the parcel more car-friendly.

Under plans filed with the city, people visiting by car would access the In-N-Out from a right-hand turn lane on State Street, setting up likely issues with people expecting to turn right onto 2100 South and the person in front expecting to turn into In-N-Out. Another car access point will be off 2100 South.

The company is asking to exceed the maximum setback requirement to free up more space for cars. Two-thirds of the business’s footprint will be dedicated to cars. Another quarter of the parcel will be landscaped and the building will make up the remaining 7% of the 1.124 acres of land in Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood.

The restaurant will operate seven days a week from 10:30 AM to 1:00 AM Sunday through Thursday, and 10:30 AM to 1:30 AM Friday and Saturday.

Cars for days. Cars for hours. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Two versions of 2100 South

Time will tell whether the businesses will attract long-term car crowding in the area. In-N-Out operates in Midvale, West Valley City, West Jordan, Draper and Riverton. 

Either way, the developments will continue to define the stark contrast between the land use patterns east and west of State Street. 

Builders are actively adding townhomes and apartments fronting 2100 South, east of State Street, capitalizing on the close proximity to the Sugar House neighborhood.

West of State, along the portion of 2100 South that’s managed by the Utah Department of Transportation, the land remains filled with narrow sidewalks, used car lots, vacant land, other car service businesses, and calorie hot spots.

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