Drive-Thru Service Getting Faster but Less Friendly

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Kids eating food from the drive-thru
Brocreative /

Drive-thru service is getting faster overall, especially in places where the staff is friendly, according to a new survey from Intouch Insight Ltd. and QSR magazine.

The 22nd Annual Drive-Thru Study analyzed 10 of the biggest restaurants in the quick-service industry and found that the average total time customers spend in the drive-thru line is almost 10 seconds less than it was a year ago, according to data gleaned through more than 1,500 drive-thru “mystery shops” across the nation.

However, the news wasn’t all good. Perceived friendliness continued a long-term trend of decline and is down 7% from 2019. Interestingly, this lack of friendliness is tied to poorer staff performance.

According to the analysis, orders placed with friendly staff are 15% more accurate and completed more than three minutes faster than orders placed with unfriendly associates. The research estimates that such unfriendliness might be tied to more than $180,000 in losses annually per store.

In a summary of the findings, Laura Livers, head of strategic growth at Intouch Insight, says:

“We’ve all heard that a smile goes a long way, and in quick service that certainly rings true. While it stands to logic that happier associates lead to better customer experiences, the true financial and operational impact of unfriendly service is staggering.”

Two restaurants — Chick-fil-A and Carl’s Jr. — finished in a tie for first place in terms of overall customer satisfaction with service. They also finished first and second, respectively, in terms of employee friendliness.

Third place in overall customer satisfaction also involved a tie, this time among Arby’s, Dunkin’ and Hardee’s.

Meanwhile, the three restaurants with the fastest drive-thru service were Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s and Taco Bell. This ranking was based on the average amount of time spent in the drive-thru, divided by the average number of cars in line.

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