200 seconds for a fast-food drive-thru burger? Way too slow

Fast-food drive-thru wait times are getting longer, according to a new study.
Fast-food drive-thru wait times are getting longer, according to a new study.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The fast-food drive-thru window is key to the whole “fast” part of the deal, but with more menu choices than ever, those custom burrito bowls are slowing down the process. In fast-food time, waiting 150 seconds for your order is an eternity.

According to the new QSR magazine and Insula research Drive-Thru Performance Study, which looks at what it calls six benchmark group brands -- Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Krystal, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s -- drive-thru wait times are up compared to last year.

The speed of service at McDonald’s has gone up to 189.49 seconds, a minor increase from 188.83 seconds, while the average wait time for an order at Chick fil-A is 203.88 seconds, 13 seconds more than last year. Burger King was the only chain to improve its wait time, shaving just under 2 seconds for an average of 198.48.


“We knew going into this year’s study that speed-of-service times seemed to have plateaued over the last few years, but we did not really expect to see the nearly across-the-board increases in service times that were apparent,” Brian Baker, president of Insula Research, said in a statement. “One explanation for longer service times could be a more complex menu for operators to deal with, as many restaurants have introduced more healthy options that in some cases could take longer to prepare.”

Rob Savage, chief operations officer at Taco Bell, home of Doritos Tacos Locos and the eight-topping Cantina bowl, told QSR that he wasn’t too concerned with speeding up the drive-thru time, adding that the company hadn’t received any complaints. Wendy’s, which at 133.8 seconds clocked in with the fastest time, devotes a separate grill and sandwich station to its drive-thru window to keep orders moving quickly.

Many people turn to the Twitterverse to complain about their drive-thru wait times (and a slew of other trivial grievances).

“ok @McDonalds make me wait 15 min at the drive thru then serve me expired food love it!” Tweeted ‏@hashleeey

“It’s fast food for a reason,” Tweeted @Adriuuunruz. “If you’re slow I’m not going to wait I’m going to leave the drive thru.”

So people want a custom sandwich in less than 200 seconds, they want it to be made correctly, they want to be able to say it’s somewhat healthful and they want it to taste good. That’s what we call another first world problem.


Want more quirky food news? Follow me on Twitter: @Jenn_Harris_


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