Drive-Thru Lines Are Slower & Less Reliable Than Last Year

On average, drive-thru time took 25.59 seconds longer this year.

Shutterstock/Gargantiopa

Through the thick of the pandemic, we relied heavily on takeout and drive-thrus to keep us fed. It was a trend that led fast food chains to up their game in both departments, even going as far as creating a four-lane drive-thru concept. But despite the increased use and investment in to-go ordering, things are slowing down as of late.

In its annual drive-thru study, SeeLevel HX found that the average time customers spent in the drive-thru increased by 25.59 seconds since last year. It's not just an efficiency issue either. Only 85% of orders were correct this year versus last year's 87%. "Interestingly, inaccurate orders took 71.06 seconds longer in Total Time to receive than accurate orders," the report found.

To compile the findings, SeeLevel HX sent out mystery customers to 10 restaurant chains, resulting in a total of 1,492 visits between July and August of this year to check out Chick-fil-A, Wendy's, Arby's, Burger King, Dunkin, KFC, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Carl's Jr., and Hardee's.

Among those surveyed, Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell were the most reliable, with Arby's, Burger King, and Carl's Jr. tied for third. 

"QSRs are facing enormous pressure as the pandemic lingers and brands are forced to navigate through a tight labor market, supply chain challenges, and inflation," CEO of SeeLevel HX Lisa van Kesteren said in a statement, according to Food & Wine. "Unfortunately, it's not surprising to see delays and an increase in inaccurate orders. With so many obstacles, it's easy to lose sight of the customer experience, but that comes with big risks including damage to the brand and a decrease in customer loyalty."

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.