When you pull up to the drive-thru, there are a lot of factors at play, both seen and unseen. You’ll remember, for example, if a place forgets to add your side of fries; you might even curse them until your dying day. But you probably won’t remember much about a successful drive-thru pickup, because those are designed to be uneventful. Fast food places want you to focus on what counts: the meal. And now, with new data on all the elements that make a fast-food drive-thru experience great, QSR Magazine has the official ranking of the best ones in America as part of its larger Drive-Thru Study.
Market research firm Food Service Results analyzed the customer satisfaction ratings from 1,007 drive-thru users at 17 different major fast food chains across the United States. Some of the metrics are things you’ve probably been frustrated by at one time or another, like order accuracy and speed of service, but it goes deeper than that: have you given much thought to things like the cleanliness of a drive-thru lane, or the availability of various menu items? This new ranking takes all those considerations (and more) into account and averages them for an “Overall Experience” score. Chick-fil-A scored highest with 93 points, and ranked highest in every individual category except one: menu item availability. This is slightly surprising, since it seems like Chick-fil-A is already working off a more limited menu than the other chains and would thus be more likely to have everything in stock. (I mean, it’s mostly just chicken, right?)
The number-two drive-thru pick was a rather close second behind Chick-fil-A, and it is my great pleasure to reveal that it was Arby’s. Yes, we all use Arby’s as our pop cultural punching bag, but it actually outranked Chick-fil-A in menu item availability, and nearly matched it in the areas of speed of service and the quality of menu items. Culver’s, Panera, and Dunkin’ round out the top five.
The lowest ranking drive-thru on the list, whose metrics hover in the low 80s and high 70s, is Popeyes. Its speed, friendliness, and cleanliness were lowest rated, but both the quality and accuracy of the items ordered netted a high 85 ranking. I guess it’s hard to mess up orders when everyone just demands the beloved chicken sandwich 100% of the time.