These fast food restaurants have the best drive-thru, study finds


New York
CNN

Every second counts in the drive-thru lanes of fast-food chains. A recent study showed that Chick-fil-A was the slowest – but only because it’s so popular and there are so many cars online.

Taco Bell led the pack in speed of service, with an average time of around 221 seconds, followed by Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC and Arby’s. But this metric does not take into account the number of cars online. In this category, Chick-fil-A is the undisputed leader, with 16% of its surveyed lines having ten or more cars. McDonald’s, which was in second place, had only 2% with as many customers.

Based on the total time the cars spent in line, Chick-fil-A came out on top, averaging around 107 seconds. McDonald’s came second at 118 seconds, followed by Taco Bell and Arby’s.

QSR and Intouch Insight released their annual Drive-Thru Report, surveying over 1,000 consumers who ranked ten industry leaders: Wendy’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Carl’s Jr. , Hardee’s, Taco Bell, and KFC.

The drive-thru stalled last year, mainly due to a shortage of restaurant workers, as thousands left the industry. The pandemic surge in drive-thru, pickup and delivery orders has only exacerbated the problem

But luckily for customers, drive-thru services were nearly 10 seconds faster than last year – and that can be a big plus in this highly competitive industry.

“Mere seconds can be decisive in determining where a consumer decides to order,” Amanda Topper, research director at Mintel, told CNN Business last year.

However, the current average is still around 45 seconds slower than the 2019 pace. The study found that pre-sale menu boards, order accuracy and user-friendliness helped reduce service wait times driving this year.

During the peak of Covid, Chick-fil-A was one of the first brands to close its dining rooms, focusing its attention on outdoor drive-thru hospitality.

“We believe that looking eye-to-eye with the customer enables a connection that happens at the start of the drive-thru,” said Matt Abercrombie, senior manager of services and hospitality at Chick-fil-A, in the ‘study.

Researchers found that Chick-fil-A refined the “checkpoint system,” which keeps customers engaged through different employee interactions.

And it’s also clear in consumer sentiment – 88% of respondents said Chick-fil-A provided friendly service, putting it at the top of the industry. Only 1.7% said the service was “unfriendly”.

But when it comes to customer satisfaction, respondents said Arby’s had the most accurate orders fulfilled, at 89.6%. McDonald’s and Burger King followed closely.

Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas named the first modern drive-thru in 1970, coining the term “Pick-Up Window”. And although the company announced a makeover this year that “emphasizes convenience, speed and accuracy,” it lags behind its competitors in the survey.

The chain plans to redesign its interiors and introduce new storefronts and a more technologically advanced kitchen.

The pandemic has created new consumer demand for drive-thrus, pressuring fast-food companies to improve signage, sanitation and technology.

In the survey, Wendy’s came in 7th for speed of service and was also lowest for order accuracy, at 79.4%. CNN Business has reached out to Wendy’s for comment.

– Danielle Wiener-Bronner and Jordan Valinsky of CNN Business contributed to this story.

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