According to a new study released today by a fast-food industry trade publication, American drive-thrus are increasingly slowing down — with consumer wait times becoming much longer.
The 2013 Drive-Thru Performance Study was conducted for QSR magazine, one of the industry’s most respected publications.
The study showed McDonald’s (MCD) lagging in its drive-thru wait times, its worst yet with an average wait time of 189.5 seconds from order to pick up. But MCD wasn’t the longest wait.
Chick-fil-A customers sit in line the longest: 203.9 seconds, on average. Wendy’s (WEN) is the fastest drive-thru, at 133.6 seconds (a good example of how wait time has increased can be given here: In 2003, Wendy’s wait time was 116 seconds).
The importance of the drive-thru business to the $299 billion fast-food industry cannot be overstated. Many major chains do 60% to 70% of their business at the drive-thru. That’s even nudged so-called fast-casual chains like Panera to move into the drive-thru arena and increase the number of drive-thrus it opens.
The industry issue that’s slowing down service: menu bloat. Fast food’s ongoing market-share battle is forcing big chains to roll out more premium and more complex products more often.
“The operational pressures to assemble those items are slowing down the drive-thru,” says Sam Oches, editor of QSR, told USA Today.
The study also looked at order accuracy — another reason why the wait time has increased.
…2013 has not been the industry’s best year in order accuracy, either. Order accuracy for drive-thru meals for the industry was at 87.2% this year vs. 88.8% last year. The chain ranking highest in accuracy: Chick-fil-A at 91.6%. The lowest was Burger King (BKC) at 82.3%.