Insights Into the Evolution of the QSR Drive-Thru

Drive ThruDrive-thrus have been a part of quick service restaurants for the past forty years. While their importance remains the same, the focus of the drive-thru has shifted over time.

In the beginning it was about speed: how quickly orders were filled and how many customers were served during peak hours. Menus were simpler back then, making speed an obvious goal to have. But times have changed. Complex menus and the desire for personalized orders have caused speediness to take a back seat. But while orders might be filled at a slower place, they’re being filled more accurately.

QSR Magazine and Insula Research published this year’s Drive-Thru Performance Study, which revealed the slowest drive-thru speeds seen in a long time. The study has been an annual effort for the past 15 years and focuses on six well-known fast food chains: Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Krystal, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, with one rotating brand, which this year was Taco John’s.

On average, speed showed a dip this year. McDonald’s experienced its slowest average drive-thru speed in the history of the study (189.49 seconds), and Burger King was the only brand to improve its speed of service this year.

This increase in drive-thru time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Speed may have decreased, but accuracy has increased. The study revealed that accuracy has reached 90 percent for most brands. Decreased speed can largely be attributed to more complex menus in the QSR world and customers’ desire to “have it your way.” Restaurants have made it a priority to make sure orders are being filled correctly the first time, which decreases speed but increases accuracy and overall satisfaction.

With 60-70 percent of business coming through the drive-thru lane, it’s important for brands to invest in drive-thru innovations to stay competitive and continue to give their customers what they want: an efficient way to grab a bite to eat that’s quick and accurate every time. The drive-thru experience is just as important as the in-store experience, so slow down and make each car feel welcome.

Photo credit: Ian Muttoo

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