Fastest Food: 10 Classic Chain Restaurants, Ranked by Drive-Thru Speed

Hannah McDonald
Kentucky Fast Chicken.
Kentucky Fast Chicken. / SOPA Images/GettyImages

For QSR magazine’s annual drive-thru report, researchers asked some 1000 recent drive-thru customers to share the two main reasons they opted for the outdoor order window over the indoor order counter. About 42 percent cited speed of service as their first priority—a proportion that’s decreasing as the years go by. The much more popular answer in the top spot, chosen by 78 percent of participants, was convenience.

In other words, it seems that some people are willing to wait a few extra minutes for their meal if it means they don’t have to get out of their car. But those more concerned with speed might like to know which drive-thrus can deliver it. According to Intouch Insight’s annual drive-thru study [PDF], KFC is the cream of the crop in that arena: An average drive-thru trip in Colonel Sanders’s kingdom only takes about 303 seconds, or just over 5 minutes. Taco Bell will only take you about 15 seconds longer than that, and Hardee’s trails that average time by another 5 seconds. 

It’s worth mentioning that Intouch Insight’s study only features 10 specific fast food franchises. So the list below doesn’t comprise the 10 fastest drive-thrus in the business—it’s the 10 restaurants included in the study, ranked by drive-thru speed. A jaunt through a Dunkin’ drive-thru, for example, averages 328 seconds, or just under 5.5 minutes. But whether Starbucks outpaces that figure remains unknown, as it simply wasn’t factored into this particular analysis.

It’s also worth mentioning that these average totals were affected by how busy the drive-thrus were. As QSR points out, this helps explain why Chick-fil-A drive-thrus seemingly underperformed, time-wise: They’re really popular. An average trip clocked in at 509 seconds, or nearly 8.5 minutes—slower than the next slowest restaurant on the list by about 40 seconds. If you divide the average trip by the average number of cars in line, however—which Intouch Insight also did—Chick-fil-A is the clear winner. In second place on that list is McDonald’s, which came in eighth place overall.

See the 10 restaurants ranked by total drive-thru speed below [PDF], and learn more takeaways from QSR’s comprehensive deep dive here.

  1. KFC // 302.63
  2. Taco Bell // 317.69
  3. Hardee's // 322.58
  4. Dunkin' // 328.1
  5. Carl's Jr. // 346.54
  6. Arby's // 356.79
  7. Burger King // 362.68
  8. McDonald's // 410.64
  9. Wendy's // 430.68
  10. Chick-fil-A // 509.13

[h/t QSR]