It’s a bird, it’s an airplane, it’s a 535 square foot modular steel and concrete structure.
On a cloudy Thursday in Waukee, a huge crane gently transferred a fully built drive-thru from a semi-trailer to its foundation at 1025 SE Laurel St.
The prefabricated building will house the first of what is expected to be a chain of Hyper Energy Bars, a coffee and energy drink retailer. The concept debuted in the Des Moines metro as a food truck in September 2020.
The company behind the Hyper Energy Bar brand is Heart of America Group. The Quad Cities-based real estate and hotel company operates several hotels and restaurants in the Midwest, including Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse and Burger Shed.
Ajay Singh, vice president of brand development for the Heart of America Group, said the Waukee site is scheduled to open in early August.
Hyper Energy Bar will exclusively serve customers through its drive-thru or walk-in window. First popularized on the West Coast, the quick serve drive-thru drinks without sit-down cafes are designed to efficiently serve large numbers of customers on the go.
With two windows at the wheel, Hyper Energy Bar will have space to accommodate a line of about 20 cars. Singh said employees will use mobile tablets to take orders from customers while they wait in their cars.
Kim Whalen, who co-founded Heart of America Group with her husband Mike in 1978, one of the inspirations for Hyper Energy Bar was the success of the Atomic Coffee Bars in Quad Cities. A pair of brothers from Portland, Oregon, opened the Davenport and Bettendorf coffee and energy drink drive-thru service in 2016, and they were very popular, draw notoriously long lines.
“It is not rocket science to figure this out,” Whalen said. “If we don’t do something different, we’re not having fun.”
Not your father’s coffee
Hyper Energy Bar is adjacent to Tommy’s Car Wash, another Heart of America group property that opened in February 2020.
Singh says the two new brands are an attempt by the company to expand its current portfolio.
“The pandemic has taught us a lot,” Singh said. “It changed the buying habitats of people. We realized that if we weren’t ready to branch out, we would potentially face the same issues in the future, namely restaurant closings through no fault of our own.”
Heart of America primarily serves families and the elderly at its hotel and restaurant chains. Singh said Hyper Energy Bar will be suitable for high school and college youth.
Faithful to its young target consumers, Hyper Energy Bar will mainly use TikTok, a social media platform with an audience well under 25, for branding and awareness, said Heart of America Marketing Director Lesley Von Tersch.
“This will be our most social brand we’ve ever created,” said Von Tersch. “TikTok is going to be our biggest social platform. We never want to stagnate and accept the status quo.”
While Hyper Energy Bar arrives first in Waukee, Heart of America is already planning drive-thru locations in Grimes and West Des Moines.
Singh said each store will have around 25 employees, likely under the age of 21.
Singh said Heart of America Group hopes to eventually open Hyper Energy Bar stores in Cedar Rapids, Omaha, Nebraska and Kansas City, Missouri.
“Look, it has to be Instagrammable for it to be successful,” Singh said. “It’s not your father’s coffee.