How helpful are bans on fast food drive-thrus?

Illustration for article titled How helpful are bans on fast food drive-thrus?
Photo: junpinzon (iStock)

In August, Minneapolis banned the construction of new drive-thru windows on in order to reduce traffic and noise. Since then, three other cities—Creve Coeur, Missouri; Long Beach, California; and Fair Haven, New Jersey—have enacted their own bans. Proponents claim that limiting drive-thrus reduces emissions and greenhouse gases and also obesity. Others aren’t so sure.


In a round-up of the debate over drive-thrus, NPR cited a study that analyzed drive-thru bans in 27 Canadian cities that concluded that the bans promoted overall health and prevented chronic diseases.

But other research shows that they don’t: In a 2015 study of what happened after South Los Angeles banned new drive-thru windows, researchers found that obesity rates actually went up. The lead researcher on the study told NPR that drive-thru bans are not the answer to cutting obesity. Some communities have had better results by taxing soda or posting nutritional information on fast food menus.

“Instead of banning drive-throughs, we need to put pressure on the restaurant chains,” Hank Cardello, author of Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat and How the Food Industry Can Fix It, told NPR. “As an industry, they haven’t stepped up to make a commitment to cutting calories and improving nutrition... to make eating healthy more of a default choice.”

In a Takeout staff discussion this morning, it was agreed that with some exceptions (Chicken McNuggets, fries), most fast food doesn’t actually taste that good and drive-thrus are often slower than actually parking the damned car and going inside. Still, many of you left compelling reasons for continuing to use the drive-thru in the comments earlier this week: disabilities, kids in the car, reluctance to put on pants. Do you think we could actually survive without drive-thrus?

Associate editor of The Takeout. Chicagoan. Owned by dog.



You hit the nail on the head in the last paragraph. Fast food just isn’t worth the effort of putting my pants on.