Is The Starbucks Drive-Thru Actually Faster? Reddit Isn't Convinced

When Starbucks introduced its first drive-thru in 1994, the feature quickly grew in demand. As of 2023, roughly 70% of Starbucks locations have a drive-thru option. The process feels fast, considering you don't even need to step out of your car. Some people online, however, have been challenging this mindset. Could the perception of a speedy Starbucks drive-thru simply be a product of our preconceived notions about convenience?

According to some Redditors, there are many reasons why you should skip Starbucks' drive-thru. Common factors like long car lines and large orders often result in slowdowns. First, consider the mechanics of a drive-thru: Even if there are only four or five cars in front of you, a slowdown at any stage of the ordering process — ordering, paying, and receiving — will result in a temporary car stoppage, preventing you from even pulling forward to put your order in. This combined with daily peaks in traffic and unpredictable staffing numbers means you might be in for a long wait. By ordering indoors, you may at least get to put your order in sooner, thereby jump-starting its preparation.

What makes a Starbucks drive-thru slow?

Of course, there's no real way to know if a Starbucks drive-thru is faster than the walk-in alternative, but according to Reddit, a good rule of thumb is to avoid the drive-thru if there's already a long line. User u/DraconidZinnia points out that you never know if the car in front of you will "order 15 drinks and [eight] food items." The orders of those ahead of you might also require lengthy preparations and heating time, adding minutes to an already-long wait.

Another user, u/sarcasm_savedmy_life, who worked at a Starbucks, backs up this claim. They mention that indecisive customers contribute significantly to others' time in line. According to them, customers don't properly prepare before entering the drive-thru — they "don't know what they want, ask a hundred questions, get to the window and [are] not ready to pay, have to reload their Starbucks card, want three Puppuccinos ... " and the list goes on.

Much like this Redditor expressed, Starbucks employees have shared important tips for drive-thru patrons so they know how to speed up the process. This includes always mentioning your desired drink size and preparing your payment method.

That said, there's one method guaranteed to be the fastest. If you're in a big rush, Redditor u/DenL4242 claims that when you place a mobile order, the process of parking, walking in, and grabbing your items takes only around 30 seconds.