The Unspoken Drive-Thru Rule You Should Never Break

The drive-thru was one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. There's nothing better than ordering food and having someone hand it to you without even needing to leave your car (well, except maybe delivery). It's the perfect road trip snack or the best way to cap a long drive home.

Though it's hard to find someone who hasn't experienced a drive-thru at least once, you might not have realized that drive-thru etiquette actually exists. It turns out there are unwritten rules on how to properly order your food via drive-thru, from the moment you reach the speaker until you're happily driving away with that burger and fries.

At the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, drive-thru visitor numbers were at an all-time high, per NPD. And while the busiest lines still move relatively fast, there are some instances you might find yourself at a standstill. If you're wondering why your order is backed up, it could be because someone ahead of you doesn't know how to follow the rules, or doesn't care to.

Drive-thru experiences should be smooth and fast

It's no secret that, at most food chains offering this quick and convenient service, you often can't get a good look at the fast food menu until you're parked right next to it and about to order. This is the reason for the one rule you should always follow when ordering from the car: Know what you want before you get to the order station. The Takeout reports that not knowing what to order upon pulling up to the speaker is one of the biggest ways customers add time to everyone's drive-thru experience. An easy fix if you're unsure of what you want is to simply pull up the menu on your phone ahead of time to plan your order.

There are some other important rules to follow at the drive-thru that will help the process run smoothly. The Takeout suggests avoiding being too chatty with drive-thru employees and Tastemade advises that you make sure you bring your wallet. Another big drive-thru rule — don't add any additional items to your order once you arrive at the pickup window. This will certainly put a halt to the smooth system most chains have in place and could potentially expose the secrets of fast food drive-thrus.