New Report: This Fast-Food Chain Has the No. 1 Fastest Drive-Thru
This chain's drive-thru offers the fastest food, yet customers prefer the slowest of them all
There’s fast food, and then there’s the fastest food—the kind of experience that takes you from the drive-thru window to chowing down in two minutes flat. Call us impatient, but when our stomachs start grumbling, a speedy drive-thru line is a savior. It begs the question: Which fast-food restaurant offers the quickest drive-thru service?
To find out the answer, QSR, a magazine that reports on the quick-service restaurant industry, evaluated the speediness of drive-thru service for the 10 most popular fast-food chains. The results may help you steer your car toward the swiftest line, but before you place an order for your favorite fast-food items, consider whether speed trumps satisfaction. Let’s just say that QSR‘s review of overall customer satisfaction makes a case for visiting the slowest fast-food drive-thru instead.
Read on to learn which drive-thru windows offer the fastest food of the bunch, which serve up the most accurate orders and which leave customers driving away with a grin.
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How the fastest drive-thru was determined
In its recent report on drive-thru speed, QSR zeroed in on 10 popular fast-food chains:
- Burger King
- Carl’s Jr.
- Taco Bell
The team visited about 165 restaurants at each chain and went through 1,491 drive-thru lines during June and July of this year. To make sure they were getting a proper average, researchers went during different hours of the day, grabbing breakfast, lunch and dinner service. (It must’ve been a hard job ordering all of those McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches, but someone had to do it.)
After collecting the data, they calculated average wait times for each chain to land on the fastest drive-thru experience. Grab a bite to eat at the winning restaurant, and you could be munching on dinner in under five minutes.
The fastest food around
You’re hungry. You need dinner—stat. Whose drive-thru has you covered? According to the report, that would be Taco Bell.
Here’s how long it took GSR‘s researchers to receive their orders at the top three fastest fast-food chains:
- Taco Bell: 278.84 seconds
- Carl’s Jr.: 303.74 seconds
- KFC: 303.95 seconds
The taco chain’s place at the top shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. With its Taco Bell Defy restaurant concept—the first of which opened its doors (and drive-thru windows) in 2022—the company had one goal. It set out to create the fastest drive-thru experience, getting food to customers in under two minutes. The innovative building includes a four-lane drive-thru to provide customers with the fastest food service.
And while there’s only one Taco Bell Defy location at the moment (you’ll find it in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota), it’s the restaurant QSR visited for its report. And yes, Taco Bell did, in fact, “defy” all drive-thru expectations with the fastest food served.
Other ways to rate a drive-thru
But speed is only one element of the fast-food experience, so the research didn’t stop there. The report also looked at data like the busiest drive-thru, the most accurate orders and the friendliest customer service. Here’s how the restaurants stacked up:
The busiest drive-thru
Here’s how many cars, on average, were waiting in line for their orders at the top three busiest chains.
- Chick-fil-A: 3.41 cars
- McDonald’s: 2.01 cars
- Wendy’s: 1.50 cars
The most accurate drive-thru
Want to ensure your order is filled correctly and completely? Head to one of these drive-thrus.
- Chick-fil-A (92% accurate)
- Burger King (90% accurate)
- McDonald’s (88% accurate)
Highest customer satisfaction
If you’d like your satisfaction (almost) guaranteed, go with one of these fast-food restaurants.
- Chick-fil-A (97% satisfied)
- Taco Bell (95% satisfied)
- Arby’s (93% satisfied)
But speed isn’t everything
Wait time may be a big deal (it is fast food, after all), but it’s not the only reason to frequent a restaurant. Though it may be 33.53 seconds slower at serving up orders than reigning champ Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A remains America’s favorite restaurant. What gives?
Let’s face it, 33.53 seconds isn’t a huge difference—certainly one worth overlooking for some of the best customer service of all fast-food chains.
But as the QSR report points out, there’s more to it than that. Chick-fil-A’s long wait time also has to do with the average number of cars that are in the line. While other restaurants had fewer than two cars in line on average (and most had fewer than one), Chick-fil-A saw an average of 3.41 cars in line. Considering the total time it takes for a person to wait in the drive-thru line, and adjusting for the amount of time it takes to get a single car through the line, Chick-fil-A is actually getting customers in and out of the line 48.32 seconds faster than Taco Bell.
Plus, even if lines are long, Chick-fil-A’s customer satisfaction is continually rated at the top. In the report, 91% of respondents called the staff friendly. None of the other chains topped a 79% friendliness score. It’s also ranked No. 1 for order accuracy.
QSR calls this the Chick-fil-A paradox: The chicken-sandwich chain comes in last in terms of timing, but that’s actually a positive thing. Lines are longer because the chain is popular, and customers know they will have a friendly and satisfying experience.
So, sure, Taco Bell wins this round. But … does it?
- QSR: “The 2023 QSR Drive-Thru Report”