Fewer drivers in line leads to faster drive-thru service at fast-food restaurants.

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In 2022, Chick-fil-A had the slowest average drive-thru experience among fast-food chains, according to a study by Intouch Insight. However, despite the longer wait times, Chick-fil-A also had the highest customer satisfaction. The study found that overall, drive-thru experiences have become faster as fewer customers choose to order from their cars. The average total time spent in a drive-thru lane decreased by 29 seconds, with wait times to order being 25 seconds shorter. The average number of cars in line to place orders also fell significantly.

Taco Bell, KFC, and Carl’s Jr. had the fastest overall drive-thru times. However, when their longer average total times were divided by the number of cars in line, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s outperformed them. This suggests that the slower service at these chains is a result of their drive-thru lanes being more popular. Despite the improvement in drive-thru times, they still lag behind 2019 times by 15 seconds. Many diners have shifted to ordering online or using self-order kiosks inside restaurants, contributing to the lower demand for drive-thru services.

Even as drive-thru visits stabilize, fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A are actively working on speeding up service and reducing errors. Some companies are testing artificial intelligence software to take orders, and new locations are being built with multiple drive-thru lanes. In the study, two special restaurants were visited, one being a McDonald’s test restaurant with an order-ahead lane, and the other being a Taco Bell location with additional lanes reserved for delivery drivers and customers who ordered ahead. Both locations outperformed their respective brands’ times and demonstrated the potential for improving drive-thru experiences. However, the test location of McDonald’s fell short in terms of order accuracy compared to the chain’s overall rate.

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