Fast food drive-thrus are slower during coronavirus pandemic: Study

Fast food chains have become a little slower on their drive-thru times, according to a new study.

On Thursday, SeeLevel HX released its annual drive-thru report, which analyzed 10 fast food brands on their performance in several categories including speed of service, order accuracy, customer service and taste.

Although the time between ordering food and picking it up was faster by 16.9 seconds from last year, wait times were longer because of increased demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those longer wait times caused total times across all brands to be 29.8 seconds slower than 2019, according to a press release.

That could cause a brand to lose more than $64.1 million a year for every 2,000 locations — or potentially $32,091.33 a year per location, the report said.

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SeeLevel HX looked at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Arby’s, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’, Hardee’s, Burger King, KFC and Carl’s Jr. for its report, which also included market research agents who visited 1,490 drive-thrus.

Despite the overall slowdown in time, KFC, McDonald’s and Taco Bell have become faster this year than they were last year, the report said.

In fact, KFC led with the fastest average total time.

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The report also found that Chick-fil-A led the order accuracy, customer service and taste categories both this year and last year.

This year, McDonald’s had the second-best order accuracy and Arby’s had the second-best customer service and the second-best taste, the release said.

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Aside from those rankings, SeeLevel HX also studied how fast food restaurants have been impacted by the coronavirus.

Drive-thrus were almost 30 seconds slower this year, likely because of increased demand during the pandemic, according to a recent study by SeeLevel HX. (iStock)

According to the report, 88% of drive-thru order stations did not have signs that explained safety standards, though 59% had plastic barriers at all windows between employees and customers.

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SeeLevel HX also found that 91% of employees wore masks at payment and pickup windows, but only 16% of orders were placed on a tray for customers to pick up themselves.

In fact, 80% of orders were reportedly handed directly to customers.

And though many fast-food chains have pared down their menus during the pandemic, SeeLevel HX found that only 9% of drive-thrus let their customers know they had limited menus.

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“The pandemic is continuing to have a massive impact on [quick service restaurants] from a spike in traffic and stricter safety standards and protocols to a substantial increase in staffing turnover and training, so I’m not surprised to see a dip in speed of service,” Lisa van Kesteren, SeeLevel HX’s CEO said in a statement.

“Still, every second has a substantial impact on the bottom line,” van Kesteren added. “And as more restaurants rely on the drive-thru for the majority of their revenue during this pandemic, and likely long term, it’s never been more critical to focus on improving wait time by investing in technology like menu boards and mobile to stay competitive.”

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