Taco Bell led the pack in speed of service, with an average time of about 221 seconds, followed by Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC and Arby’s. But this metric doesn’t factor the number of cars in line. In that category, Chick-fil-A is the clear leader, with 16% of its lines surveyed counting ten or more cars. McDonald’s, which was in second place, only had 2% with that many customers.
Based on the total time cars spent in line, Chick-fil-A came out on top, with an average of about 107 seconds. McDonald’s came in second at 118 seconds, followed by Taco Bell and Arby’s.
QSR and Intouch Insight published its annual Drive-Thru Report, surveying more than 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.
But luckily for customers, drive-thrus have gotten nearly 10 seconds faster compared to last year — and that can be a big advantage in this highly competitive industry.
However, the current average is still about 45 seconds slower than the 2019 pace. The study said pre-sell menu boards, order accuracy and friendliness helped decrease the wait times at drive-thrus this year.
Service and speed
During peak Covid, Chick-fil-A was one of the first brands to close its dining rooms, focusing its attention on bringing hospitality to the drive-thru outside.
“We believe that looking eye-to-eye with the customer allows for a connection that happens at the beginning of the drive-thru,” Matt Abercrombie, Chick-fil-A’s senior director of service and hospitality, said in the study.
The researchers found that Chick-fil-A had fine tuned the “check-point system,” which keeps customers engaged through different interactions with employees.
And that’s clear in consumer sentiment too — 88% of said Chick-fil-A had friendly service, placing it at the top of the industry. Only 1.7% said the service was “not friendly.”
But when it comes to customer satisfaction, said most accurate Arby’s had the orders filled, at 89.6%. McDonald’s and Burger King was closely followed.
Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas named the first modern drive-thru in 1970, coining the term “Pick-Up Window.” And though the company this year announced a makeover that places an “emphasis on convenience, speed and accuracy,” it has lagged behind its competitors in the survey.
The pandemic has opened up a new consumer demand for the drive-thru, pressing fast food companies to upgrade signage, sanitation and technology.
In the survey, Wendy’s came in 7th for speed of service and was also the lowest for order accuracy, at 79.4%. CNN Business has reached out to Wendy’s for comment.
CNN Business’ Danielle Wiener-Bronner contributed to this story.