Faster Fast-Food Drive-Thrus: Less Waiting, More Speed

Fast-Food Drive-Thrus

The world of fast-food drive-thrus is changing, and for those who love their meals on wheels, there’s good news. A recent annual study by Intouch Insight has revealed that drive-thru lanes are moving at a faster pace. So, if you’re a fan of speedy service without the wait, here’s the scoop.

Speedy Service: A New Norm

This year, fast-food drive-thrus saw significant improvements. The average total time spent in a drive-thru lane shrunk by a whopping 29 seconds. That means you can go from hungry to happy in record time. The wait times for ordering were also slashed, with a 25-second reduction. Plus, there’s more good news – the average number of cars in line to place orders plummeted from 2.76 to just 1.27.

Behind the Study

Intouch Insight’s study covered nearly 1,500 locations of popular fast-food chains. Mystery shoppers did the ordering, cruising through the drive-thru lanes at various times between June and July. The aim? To see which chains were quickest and how they fared in different situations.

The Fastest Lanes

When it comes to speed, Taco Bell, KFC, and Carl’s Jr. took the crown for their overall drive-thru times. However, a twist in the tale was seen when you divided those times by the number of cars in line. Here, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s came out on top. In other words, these chains served customers faster in drive-thru lanes that were more popular.

Shifting Trends

The drive-thru lanes weren’t always this snappy. When the pandemic hit, people moved from dining in to ordering from their cars. Even after dining rooms reopened, the trend continued. This shift put the pressure on fast-food workers to assemble orders accurately and swiftly. Many chains introduced solutions, like curbside pickup for mobile orders, but this year’s total drive-thru times still lag behind 2019 times by 15 seconds.

Online and Kiosks On the Rise

While drive-thru visits have become more stable, many diners have embraced online ordering and self-order kiosks inside restaurants. Fast-food giants like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A are working hard to boost efficiency and reduce errors. Some are testing artificial intelligence software to handle orders or are constructing new locations with as many as four drive-thru lanes.

A Special Study

Intriguingly, Intouch Insight’s mystery shoppers visited two unique restaurants this year. One was a McDonald’s test restaurant outside Fort Worth, Texas, featuring an order-ahead lane and a regular drive-thru lane.

The other was a Taco Bell location in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, boasting one standard drive-thru lane and three more for delivery drivers and ahead-of-time orders. Both locations outperformed their brands’ times, with the Taco Bell restaurant taking the lead in order accuracy.

So, whether you’re racing through the drive-thru or placing orders in advance, it looks like the fast-food industry is working hard to keep you satisfied and moving.