A new study states Chick-fil-A takes top honors for the slowest drive-thru. But maybe there’s a good reason for that ranking.
No one wants to get stuck in a long wait at a fast food restaurant. If you have to wait a long time, it isn’t really fast, is it? The 2022 QSR Drive Thru Report said Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A customers spend an average of 509.1 seconds, making it the slowest drive-thru.
I’ll save you a step: 509.1 seconds works out to be 8.48 minutes.
That’s it? Apparently, an average wait time of less than five minutes is somehow the worst.
That’s the worst?? I look at that number and wonder where the hell these people conducted this study. They certainly didn’t visit Charleston.
For what it’s worth, the survey examined 10 chains: Arby’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’, Hardee’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. I know which chains by far move the slowest. Chick-fil-A is not on that list.
No one has a super-fast drive thru anymore.
I went to a restaurant the other night that took one minute at two seconds just to greet me at the order board. Yes, the guy apologized for the delay, but still, that’s a full minute before you’re even acknowledged!
There’s a big-name burger franchise near me that sometimes runs one customer at a time through the drive-thru cycle. This particular location has two order lanes, even though both are almost never open at the same time. They take a customer’s order, and have them drive around to the first of two windows. At that first window, the customer pays. The customer then proceeds to the second window to pick up their food.
But when they get short-handed, they do something ridiculous. They take the order of Customer A at the order board and have them drive to the first window. Customer B, who is right behind Customer A, then moves to the order board…and waits. Customer A pays for her food and moves forward to the second window. But Customer B is still waiting at the order board. Customer A now waits for the food. After a couple of minutes, an employee hands Customer A the bag of food and Customer A drives off. It’s only then that they take Customer B’s order. The process repeats.
I visited another big-name burger restaurant where I sat in line for more than fifteen minutes, at least three cars away from the order board. I moved up one slot in those fifteen minutes. Needless to say, they weren’t fast enough for me.
The study acknowledges important points about Chick-fil-A’s ’slowest drive-thru’
If you look at a single graph in the study, you get a less-than-ideal impression about the home of that famous chicken sandwich. But if you look at a couple of graphs that break down the final number, a very different picture emerges.
The study separates the time into two parts: wait time and service time. It defines ”wait time” as the amount of time it takes the customer to enter the line and have their order taken. ”Service time,” then, is the amount of time it takes the customer to receive the food once it is ordered.
When you look at the wait time alone, Chick-fil-A has the worst with 183.67 seconds. The average wait time is 105.84 seconds. That’s 73% longer than average. Hardee’s has the lowest wait time, by the way.
When you look at service time alone, once you place your order, Chick-fil-A will make you wait an average of 325.47 seconds. But everyone’s slower here, not just Chick-fil-A. The average service time is 266.78 seconds. That’s only 22% worse than the average wait time. Taco Bell came in with the lowest service time.
So it appears the biggest issue making Chick-fil-A the slowest drive-thru is the time it takes to actually place your order. But you have to look at Chick-fil-A’s demand. It’s the only restaurant I’ve ever seen in my area where, at lunchtime, and even occasionally at dinner time, the drive-thru line actually backs up <em>outside the restaurant’s parking lot</em>.
Most fast food restaurants would probably kill to have that kind of demand every day.
There’s one other key stat worth mentioning for Chick-fil-A.
The study also looked at the average total time by cars. To determine this time, investigators divided the total time in the drive-thru — wait time plus service time — by the average number of cars in line.
When you look at that stat, something very interesting happens: suddenly, Chick-fil-A moves up from the bottom of the rankings all the way up to the top. It’s average time by cars is 107.41, compared with an average of 135 seconds. Only McDonald’s and Taco Bell manage to slide under that average time with Chick-fil-A. The worst, going by this measure, becomes Carl’s Jr. with sister chain Hardee’s in second.
There’s something to be said for popularity. In the world of fast food, that something is a longer wait in line.
But to say Chick-fil-A is just the slowest drive-thru, to me, isn’t entirely accurate. I’m amazed not only at the courteousness of their staff, something most fast food restaurants these days cannot muster, but also the efficiency of their operation.
The Chick-fil-A nearest me has a double drive-thru lane. For much of the day, they staff that line with employees holding iPads to take orders. They take orders well ahead of the point the drive-thru customers would reach the order board. They move a lot of cars through those lines. Most every fast-food restaurant I’ve ever visited could stand to take notes from how Chick-fil-A operates a drive-thru.
On top of their speed despite the huge demand, they rarely seem to get orders wrong. I’ve been to fast-food restaurants with far less traffic where they don’t seem to give a damn whether you get what you ordered or not. I imagine it’s the places with that kind of attitude that might be — in part — driving more people into the lines at Chick-fil-A.
Some things, like quality of food, courtesy of workers, and accuracy of orders, can easily trump a couple of extra minutes in line.