When you roll up to a fast food drive-thru, you're likely expecting swift service, top-notch food, and an order that matches precisely what you requested. Well, we can dream about that anyway, right?
A recent study reveals that some chains are outperforming others in meeting these anticipations.
The latest annual drive-thru analysis by Intouch Insight delves into how top fast food brands fare in areas like order precision, service speed, food caliber, promotional sales tactics, and overall customer contentment. The study, which involved close to 1,500 drive-thru visits, covered 10 prominent chains: Arby’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’, Hardee’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s.
On the whole, Intouch Insight’s findings indicate an uptick in the performance of these fast food behemoths. They've picked up the pace compared to last year, shaving off 29 seconds from the average ordering time. Queues are noticeably shorter with the average car count falling from 2.76 to 1.27. Order correctness is on the rise (though it's a modest improvement of 1% to hit 86%). Customer contentment has also climbed by 1%, now standing at a commendable 90%.
Chick-fil-A once again shone bright in numerous categories, though other brands weren't too far off the mark.
Despite its numerous accolades, the "Eat Mor Chikin" establishment didn't clinch a top-five spot when it came to drive-thru speed. In Intouch Insight’s 2021 report, Chick-fil-A had surpassed McDonald’s, taking the lead for the swiftest overall drive-thru time. While KFC held this distinction last year, Taco Bell claims the title this time around.
It's almost considered a National Holiday! The day we learn stats on this year's fast food drive thrus!https://t.co/WFTwGUo7QW
— WoodyAndWilcox (@woodyandwilcox) October 3, 2023
Speed was the lone area where Chick-fil-A didn't outdo its competition.
With the fastest time relative to the car queue, Chick-fil-A retained its title from the previous year. McDonald’s trailed in second, with Wendy’s in third – a significant jump from being outside the top five in 2022. Carl’s Jr. boasted the shortest average wait time, but Chick-fil-A managed the most significant cut in wait time year-on-year, trimming it from 183.67 seconds to 123.72 seconds.
Per the report, Taco Bell offered the quickest service, clocking in at just under five minutes. Carl’s Jr. and KFC followed closely, while Chick-fil-A lagged with nearly seven and a half minutes.
Beyond speed, accuracy is paramount. Here, Chick-fil-A reclaimed the crown it previously lost to Arby’s and McDonald’s, nailing 92% of orders. Burger King came next with 90% accuracy. The least precise were Arby’s, Dunkin, and Hardee’s, all tying at 82%. Notably, a third of these errors related to iced drinks when none was requested.
Wrapping up the competition! Our Chick-fil-A team members go head-to-head to see who can wrap the perfect sandwich in record time, all while having a blast. Who's got the fastest hands? Watch and find out!???? pic.twitter.com/rDzsRPomLA
— Chick-fil-A River Landing (@Chickfila_RL) September 25, 2023
Food quality saw Chick-fil-A excel once more. A staggering 98% of respondents said their main dishes met expectations. KFC mirrored these impressive numbers. While all surveyed chains scored over 90%, Burger King and Carl’s Jr. scraped the bottom with 95%.
In terms of customer satisfaction, Chick-fil-A remained the gold standard, holding onto its title with a 97% score. The only other competitors surpassing 90% were Taco Bell, Arby’s, and Wendy’s. Burger King lagged at 85%.
Regarding perceived service attitude, Chick-fil-A was unique in its high friendliness rating above 90% and an absence of unfriendly scores. Meanwhile, 64% found McDonald’s service friendly, 33% neutral, and Carl’s Jr. recorded the highest unfriendly rate at 7%.
Chick-fil-A's sweeping success in Intouch Insight's survey resonates with its loyal fan base. For nine consecutive years, it's been America’s top pick for fast food, as per the American Customer Satisfaction Index. McDonald’s, contrasting starkly, didn't top any category in the Intouch study.
However, McDonald's "Innovation Location" near Fort Worth, Texas, offered a glimmer of hope. Both this spot and Taco Bell Defy in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota – known for pioneering features like an Order Ahead Lane and a four-lane drive-thru with digital check-ins – outshone their standard chain outlets. On average, they were a minute quicker and scored higher in customer satisfaction compared to traditional locations.
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