The Most Popular Drive-Thru In The US Might Surprise You

Despite the connotation drive-thrus have of grease and grills, the most popular drive-thru destination in the United States is not McDonald's, nor Burger King, nor Taco Bell. Rather, according to data gathered by Pentagon Motor Group, most people across the country go to Starbucks, with McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts clocking in as the second and third most popular, respectively.

Outside of the United States, McDonald's claims the title in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Meanwhile, Starbucks, a Seattle-birthed brand, was also the most popular drive-thru destination in Canada.

These results, however, should be taken with a generous heap of salt as, according to the group's methodology, Pentagon Motor Group reached the conclusions based on Google searches people made using terms related to drive-thrus in the last year. So, what they have found isn't necessarily the most popular brands of drive-thrus as much as the brands that internet surfers were most inquisitive about. Perhaps, for instance, fewer people searched for McDonald's because they were already set on buying burgers from them via their drive-thru. Perhaps more people searched for Starbucks to see if they had a drive-thru now that indoor dining is verboten. Still, the data does show that Starbucks boasts a stranglehold over the mind of more Americans who take to Google than McDonald's.

Starbucks has started to develop its own drive-thru models

Starbucks has addressed the coronavirus pandemic by reimagining how a Starbucks should function. In June 2020, they announced on the company's website that the next year and a half would see Starbucks expanding its Drive-thru, Pickup, and curbside offerings.

"As we navigate through the COVID-19 crisis," Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, said, "we are accelerating our store transformation plans to address the realities of the current situation, while still providing a safe, familiar, and convenient experience for our customers."

This, as QSR unveiled in January of this year, involved developing a whole new drive-thru concept for Starbucks. The new model shares with McDonald's a philosophy of drive-thru only, which strikes at the heart of Starbucks' previous image of being a place to meet. However, the change merely reflects the reality of current consumer habits, stopping by a place for food before moving on, not stopping to stuff oneself. So while QSR estimates that 40 percent of all Starbucks lack a drive-thru component currently, Starbucks is shifting to perhaps seriously challenge other drive-thru vendors that happen to have coffee, like McDonald's. From the looks of Google searches for drive-thrus in the last 12 months, Starbucks' push might be paying off.