Every second counts in the driving lanes of fast food chains. A recent study showed Chick-fil-A has the slowest — but only because it’s so popular and there are so many cars in line.
Taco Bell leads the group in terms of service speed, with an average time of about 221 seconds, followed by Dunkin’ Donuts, Kentucky and Arby’s. But this measure does not take into account the number of cars in line. In this category, Chick-fil-A is the clear leader, with 16% of its lines cleared from ten or more cars. McDonald’s, which ranked second, had only 2% with that many customers.
Based on the total time cars spent in line, Chick-fil-A came out on top with an average of about 107 seconds. McDonald’s came in second with a time of 118 seconds, followed by Taco Bell and Arby’s.
QSR and Intouch Insight published their annual Drive-Thru Report, which included more than 1,000 consumers who ranked ten industry leaders: Wendy’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Carl’s Jr. , Hardee’s, Taco Bell, and KFC.
Driving in the swamp last year was bogged down mostly by a shortage of restaurant workers, with thousands leaving the industry. The epidemic rise in car-to-car and pick-up and drop-off orders has exacerbated the problem
But fortunately for customers, Quick Pay is about 10 seconds faster than a year ago – and that could be a huge advantage in this highly competitive industry.
“Mere seconds can be the make-or-break process of where a consumer decides to order,” Amanda Tupper, director of research at Mintel, told CNN Business last year.
However, the current average is still about 45 seconds slower than the 2019 pace. The study said pre-sale list boards, order accuracy and friendliness helped reduce drive-through wait times this year.
During the height of Covid, Chick-fil-A was one of the first brands to shut down dining rooms, focusing their attention on bringing hospitality abroad.
“We believe seeing eye to eye with the customer allows for the connection that occurs at the beginning of drive-through,” Matt Abercrombie, senior director of service and hospitality at Chick-fil-A, said in the study.
The researchers found that Chick-fil-A had set up a “checkpoint system,” which keeps customers engaged through various interactions with employees.
And that’s evident in consumer sentiment, too – 88% of survey respondents said Chick-fil-A has friendly service, putting it at the top of the industry. Only 1.7% said the service was “unfriendly”.
But when it comes to customer satisfaction, survey respondents said Arby’s fulfilled the most accurate orders, at 89.6%. Follow McDonald’s and Burger King closely.
Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas, called the first modern car in 1970, coining the term “Pick-Up Window.” And although this year the company announced a shift focused on “convenience, speed, and accuracy,” it fell behind its competitors in the survey.
The chain plans to redesign its interiors, implement new small windows and a more technologically advanced kitchen.
The pandemic has opened up new drive-through consumer demand, putting pressure on fast food companies to upgrade signage, sanitation and technology.
In the survey, Wendy’s ranked seventh for speed of service and was also the least accurate for orders, at 79.4%. CNN Business has reached out to Wendy’s for comment.
CNN Business’s Danielle Wiener Brunner and Jordan Valinsky contributed to this story.
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