A drive-thru funeral home. Why not?
(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)
I don’t know what it is about the funeral industry but it does have its innovators. Last week I wrote about Kienta Tibbs, who is part of a growing trend of women going into the mortuary business. This week I bring to you yet another entrepreneur in the industry, Ryan Bernard, who is embracing society’s need to fit more things into our busy days…while still honoring recently departed loved ones.
According to this story in the the Commercial Appeal, Bernard’s Memphis, Tenn.-based R. Bernard Funeral Services is offering a drive-thru window so grieving family members and friends can pay their last respects from the comfort of their automobiles. And no, you can’t get fries with that.”We still have traditional visitation services,” Bernard told the Commercial Appeal. “The drive-thru is just an added bonus for your family member. It is up to the family to decide if they want this option.”
It’s not a completely new idea. Other funeral homes around the country offer similar services. Eyeing his competitors and needing to stand-out in a market already entrenched with many older and more-established funeral homes in the area, Bernard decided to start his drive-thru offerings in January of this year and since then six families have taken him up on it. The service is offered at no extra charge.
At R. Bernard, visitors need to first go to a check-in area and then drive through a gated entrance. The viewing area (which, in case you were wondering, was the drive-thru of a dearly departed local bank) is shaded, private and comes complete with a bullet-proof window. Hey, you never know. Only three minutes are allotted per viewing.
Sure, some people have found this offensive. But what I love about Bernard is that he’s the ever opportunistic entrepreneur. He knows full well that the funeral business is indeed a business and the competition can be quite…deadly. As a businessman, Bernard is certainly no stiff. He’s planning to soon offer live streaming of funeral ceremonies as well cremation services.
“The funeral industry is always changing every year. I keep the old traditional funeral stuff and try to add new stuff to it,” Bernard told the Commercial Appeal. “I am 41 years old. I am not out just to market to the grandmas and grandpas, I am trying to get the millennials and the baby boomers too.”