Waiting times at drive-thrus slow as pandemic demands soar

As the popularity of drive-thrus has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, so have wait times. 

A report from Seelevel HX, a market research company, showed wait times at 10 chains have increased as they grapple with increased demand from customers practicing social distancing. 

According to the report, McDonald’s and Yum Brands, owner of KFC and Taco Bell, were the only chains that trimmed their times. KFC was the fastest drive-thru listed in the report, with trips lasting an average of five minutes. 

The study’s surveyors noted that companies who slimmed their menus, like McDonald’s, reported faster wait times, as did those who incorporated digital menu boards. Digital menu boards, which were present at 23 percent of restaurants visited by the surveyors, cut wait times on average by roughly 12 seconds. 

The report estimates that restaurants who made the switch to digital menu boards saved $28,000 annually. 

Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks previously balked at the ideas of drive-thrus, but now readily embrace them as consumer demand has increased. 

Safety procedures because of the coronavirus were accounted for in the report. 

Mask use was widespread. According to respondents, 91 percent of employees are wearing them, and over half are standing behind a transparent plastic barrier at drive-thru windows. 80 percent of customers received their food in their hands directly rather than being placed on a tray or window. 

In 2019, a performance study conducted by QSR Magazine, a restaurant trade publication, showed that customers spent 20 seconds more waiting in drive-thru lines than in the previous year. 

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