Why Your Drive-Thru Wait Time is Getting Longer

By Mike Pomranz |
McDonald's, Lawsuit, Drive Thru

© John Greim/LOOP IMAGES/Getty Images

Technology is supposed to help our lives whisk by with ease, but apparently when it comes to fast food drive-thru service, things are actually slowing down according to an annual report from QSR Magazine.

If you were lamenting last year’s increase  from a 203.3 second average wait time to 221.9 seconds, you had over 4 extra seconds to ponder the issue every time you sat in a drive-thru line this year. In its most recent report on drive-thrus, QSR’s research shows that average drive-thru wait times are now inching sadly close to four minutes, clocking in at an average of 226.3 seconds. The slowdown is being attributed to more complicated dishes – meaning that, as hard as it is to believe, the invention of the Whopperito may have actually had a downside.

The good news, however, is that food order accuracy is actually up over that same three year time period. Though it may feel otherwise as you struggle to peer inside the bag of burgers riding shotgun with you, 90 percent of drive-thru orders were correct in the past year’s survey – up from 88.8 percent last year and 87.2 percent the year before that. Carl’s Jr. was the most accurate of the bunch, nailing 97.6 percent of orders. Oddly, Hardee’s only got 93 percent of its orders right despite being the same damn restaurant.


“When the restaurants look at the drive-thru, they're really prioritizing accuracy and the experience over simply getting them out quickly,” QSR editor Sam Oches told CNBC. “They recognize that customers are more angry with rude service or inaccurate service, than slower speed of service.” So the takeaway appears to be that if customers want quicker service, they need to start getting angrier – a dream come true really.

For the study, QSR checked orders at over 1,900 locations of 15 national restaurant chains – eleven fast food brands and four fast casual spots. If you want your fast food the absolute fastest, Wendy’s performed the best of all the restaurants – spitting out orders in 169 seconds on average. Meanwhile, Starbucks was somehow the slowest of all the brands reviewed, coming in at nearly 300 seconds per order on average – slower than even the four fast casual chains included. What’s even more alarming is that rival brand Dunkin’ Donuts was the second fastest of the 15 brands looked at – moving coffee and grub at the far quicker clip of about 181 seconds – practically a full two minutes faster than the ‘Bux. But hey, never rush a true barista!


Video Section