The Best Time To Go To A Fast Food Drive-Thru Is Coincidentally Perfect For Snacking

Drive-thrus are reliable, convenient, and perfect for avoiding running into people you know when visiting your favorite fast food joint. The bad thing, though, is that they are getting slower. According to a fast food study done in 2021 by SeeLevel HX, the average wait time increased by 25.59 seconds compared to 2020, a figure that has continued to trend upward for the past decade. Essentially, drive-thrus get more and more popular, and fast food establishments have trouble keeping enough staff to cope with the demand. And although there are chains like the uber-popular Chick-Fil-A that are developing more efficient drive-thrus, there are still ways to avoid the hassle of a long line.

Instead of visiting your favorite fast food drive-thru during peak business hours, opt to get your fix in the midafternoon. Not only is this the perfect time for snacking anyway, but fast food workers are typically going to be at their fastest and friendliest. And while you could just stop by during this time for a quick snack, planning your meals around this drive-thru cycle can help you get a bigger order without running the risk of an uncomfortably long wait. Have yourself a decent-sized breakfast, which should be enough to hold off until after the prime lunch hours, and then treat yourself to your favorite fast food and an even faster drive-thru.

The worst times to go to a drive-thru

Besides the usual do's and don'ts of drive-thru etiquette, there are certain times you definitely want to avoid at all costs. Breakfast can be mild (unless you're at Starbucks) thanks to most patrons only looking for a quick bite and drink to get through the morning. But the other two main meal times are when you really want to stay away. Menus at many fast food restaurants typically expand for lunch and dinner hours, meaning that kitchen staff will be scrambling to accommodate a range of different foods being ordered at once. Moreover, the sheer volume of items ordered has the potential to increase during lunch and dinner when you factor in that customers may be ordering for multiple eaters, like coworkers or kids.

When it comes to average drive-thru speed per restaurant, QSR's Drive-Thru Report reveals some shocking data. Chick-Fil-A — perhaps unsurprisingly — finished dead last, with an average drive-thru wait time of 325.47 seconds. McDonald's placed second to last (291.30), just a few spots ahead of other popular drive-thrus Carl's Jr. (289.36) and Wendy's (275.84). Conversely, Taco Bell earned the title of fastest drive-thru with an average service time of only 221.99 seconds. When you're just looking for a midafternoon snack, have your pick of the litter, but when you're too tired after work to even heat up leftovers and the drive-thru lines are at their worst, Taco Bell will likely have your back.