America's... slowest... fast-food... drive-thru... is... named

Illustration for article titled Americas... slowest... fast-food... drive-thru... is... namedem/em
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Drive-thru is big business for fast-food restaurants, full stop. This year’s Drive-Thru Study from QSR Magazine finds that drive-thru sales make up about 70 percent of the average fast-food chain’s business, so it’s incredibly important that these chains keep you happy from the moment you shout into the ordering mic to the moment you’re finally handed that paper bag. How long you spend in between those moments is paramount (as anyone who’s waited hungrily for their Quarter Pounder with Cheese knows) and some fast-food restaurants are speedier than others.

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McDonald’s is the slowest, QSR reports, with an average drive-thru time of 273.29 seconds, or just over 4.5 minutes. (This “service time” was defined as the time between stopping at the order station and the receiving of all items, including change.) Chick-fil-A also ranked low in terms of speed, with an average service time of 260.85 seconds, or just over 4.3 minutes. Interestingly, that slow drive-thru speed doesn’t seem to concern Chick-fil-A’s loyal fans, who ranked it highest among many restaurant chains in terms of overall customer satisfaction in a separate survey. At the other end of the speed spectrum, Burger King was the quickest drive-thru chain, averaging 193.31 seconds, or less than 3.5 minutes.

Accuracy of your order also matters. (Drive away, unwrap that burger, find out it’s wrong, and your heart just sinks. Ugh, do you go back? Nah, screw it, you’re just going to eat this sad sandwich you didn’t order.) The average chain fulfills drive-thru orders with just shy of 90 percent accuracy; one restaurant, though, was markedly lower than that: KFC, with accurate orders filled just 69.9 percent of the time. Chick-fil-A scored highest for order accuracy at more than 97 percent—is that what’s taking them so long? McDonald’s also scored above average in the accuracy department, so perhaps that’s the customer trade-off: Do you want your food fastest, or do you want exactly what you ordered?

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

PalestinianChicken

I’m curious to see how the almost-4 minute (234 seconds) average wait for drive-through compares with ordering inside, depending on time of day.

I assume drive-through is usually faster, since there’s no need to park and walk, and most restaurants give priority to their drive-through. But there are times of day when the backlog of cars suggests that ordering inside makes more sense.

In anycase, I generally prefer ordering inside when possible, if only because McD’s new kiosk ordering gives you the option to add/take off toppings, which I like quite a bit.  Haven’t tried the mobile ordering, but that should be pretty similar, minus the employee coming out to your car with your order.