10/04/2012 01:01 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Best Drive-Thru Chains Study: Wendy's Wins Speed, Chick-Fil-A Wins Friendliness

Ordering drive-thru is one of those activities, like reading "Ulysses" or filming your own "Gangnam Style" parody video, that often seems like it will be more pleasurable in theory than it winds up being in practice. It takes forever to snake through the line; they botch your order; you spill In-N-Out special sauce all over the freshly-detailed leather seats of your Audi A6.

But this year's installment of an annual study of drive-thru experiences by QSR magazine aims to solve the first two of those problems, at least. (When you decide to eat hamburgers in the front seat of a $43,000 car, you're on your own.)

The magazine sent test-drivers out to the drive-thru windows of several of the leading fast food chains to rate the brands on several key metrics, which aimed to discern how fast, friendly and clean the different brands were. The testers found major disparities.

When it came to speed, Wendy's reigned supreme. The average order there took just 129 seconds start to finish, more than 50 percent less than at its slowest competitor, Burger King, where the average order took 201 seconds. The runner-up for speed was Taco Bell, where the average order took 145 seconds.

Here are the full findings on order quickness:


Most of the brands did well on cleanliness overall, though there were some performance discrepancies on the mystifying "visibility of dumpsters" metric. Taco Bell and Burger King were the most likely to hide their dumpsters, with Bojangles and Krystal being the least likely.

Perhaps the most striking finding, though, came in the service categories. Fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A dominated, with 57 percent of servers being rated "very friendly" and another 35 percent being called "pleasant." They were also the most likely to make eye contact, smile and say "please." And they almost never got an order wrong.

Here's a chart of the indicating how often servers said various pleasantries:

service attributes

At least the company is being nice in some ways.



2011's Top 10 Fast Food Chains (By Total U.S. Sales)