Fast-food drive-thrus getting slower, study finds

Dylan Stableford
Yahoo News
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In this Thursday, April 25, 2013, photo, a car stops at the drive-thru at a Burger King restaurant near downtown Los Angeles. Burger King reports their quarterly earnings on Friday, April 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Bad news, America. Fast-food drive-thrus are getting slower.

According to an annual study of drive-thru performance released Monday, the amount of time consumers wait in line at fast-food drive-thru windows is on the rise. On average, customers spent roughly three minutes (180 seconds) from order to pickup in 2013, the study found, or about eight seconds slower than last year.

McDonald's customers spent an average of 189.5 seconds in the drive-thru line — the company's slowest drive-thru time in the 15-year history of the study.

But that's a sprint compared with Chick-fil-A, where customers waited an average of 203.9 seconds, the longest of any chain in the study and Chick-fil-A's slowest showing since 1998.

Wendy's, on the other hand, had the fastest drive-thru, with an average wait time of 133.6 seconds.

One reason for the slowdown: products like Taco Bell's Cantina Bell bowls, for instance, that are relatively complicated to assemble.

Another: a renewed focus on accuracy.

"The one thing that angers a customer most is to not get the right food," Sam Oches, editor of fast-food industry publication QSR magazine, told USA Today. "It's possible to be too fast. ... Customers will be patient if you give them hot, accurate orders."

“You can get really fast but ruin the overall experience, because now you’re not friendly and now you’re not taking the time to guarantee accuracy or make sure the products have been built the way you want them to be built,” Rob Savage, chief operations officer at Taco Bell, told QSR. “So there’s a careful balance in there that we have to continually look at.”

Nonetheless, the study found that order accuracy rate for drive-thru meals was down. According to the survey, 87.2 percent of orders were assembled correctly in 2013, compared with 88.8 percent in 2012.

Chick-fil-A ranked highest in accuracy, delivering 91.6 percent of its drive-thru orders correctly. Taco Bell, at 90.9 percent, was No. 2.

Burger King, with 82.3 percent accuracy, ranked lowest.