Why Is Chick-fil-A So Slow?
Chick-fil-A has the slowest drive-thru service, according to the article in USA Today.
The article is pretty skewed too, as it does actually state in the end that Chick-fil-A is the fasts, but the headline “Chick-fil-A has the slowest drive-thru, study says. Another chicken chain comes in No. 1” tells a different story. The study which was done by QSR Magazine puts 10 fast-food restaurants to the test. They timed the drive-thru at Taco Bell, Dunkin’, KFC, Arby’s, Burger King, Hardee’s, Wendy’s, Carl’s Jr., McDonald’s, and, Chick-fil-A restaurants. The end result was Taco Bell on top with 221.99 seconds on average and Chick-fil-A at the bottom of the list with 325.47 seconds on average. However, the article does state that Chick-fil-A’s drive-thrus were slower because they were busier.
I decided to test this article, so off to Taco Bell (or as I often call it Taco Hell), to test their speed at the drive-thru. It was 7:58:50 p.m. and my wife pulls into the drive-thru, there was one vehicle ahead of us, who just finished ordering. I pull to the speaker as he pulled up to the window. “May I take your order?”, said in her best “Throw Momma from the train” Voice (Anne Ramsey) the stopwatch starts and I think to myself, what a friendly person who is so happy to have a job.
My wife gave my order first and just as she finished my order, the “voice” on the other end of the speaker, jumped in and said, will that be all? My wife politely stated, no, I would also like and then proceeded to give her order just as she finished her order, again, she was interrupted rudely by the “voice”, again asking if that is all, My wife once again, stated, no, I would also like and she ordered my cinnamon twists (aka rice/wheat pasta noodles, coated in cinnamon and sugar). When my wife said, that is all, it took about 15 seconds before the “voice” started to repeat the order and give her her total cost. By this time the car in front of us at the window is starting to pull away.
We pull up to the window and hand the teenager at the window our credit card and they immediately hand my wife one drink, followed by a bag of food. She puts the drink in the holder and hands me the bag of food. I look through it to make sure it is all there. The Taco Bell window is now closed as we are waiting for my credit card and my missing drink. The windows open and the teenager hands my wife my card and then my wife states that we are missing a drink. Again closing the window and disappearing for a little bit, then return, grabs a cup, and fill my drink. When he handed my wife the drink, I stopped the stopwatch at 8:05:38, and the total is 408 seconds.
Dunkin’ & Arby’s
I had already posted my attempts for service at Dunkin’, but I have never told my story of how friendly the local Arby’s is. To make a long story short, this was about a year or more ago, and I was placing my order and I ordered potato cakes as I’m not a fan of their fries. And the “voice” exclaimed, “fuck you, potato cakes”. I immediately stopped my order and went inside to talk to the manager. She didn’t really care much and told me that, it was a mistake as an employee forgot to mute their microphone. Well duh, but you allow your employees to talk that way about customers? That resulted in a letter to Arby’s headquarters, they didn’t react at all to the email, they simply forwarded it to the franchise owner, which resulted in an email from the Director of Operations, who claimed that they were ” embarrassed and appalled” at how I was treated.
The local McDonald’s had 4 cars in front and I stopped timing after 10 minutes in line. I would never stay in line that long for a Coke and fries, but I was trying to test the study. Since I stopped the stopwatch, I will give them a second chance at a later date, in hopes that this was a fluke.
This is a different McDonald’s restaurant on a different date and time, for this go around. I stopped in after work to grab a Coke and some fries (my go-to snack for some reason). It was 3:37 p.m. and there were 4 cars in line ahead of me, but I was able to pull right up to the speaker, so I started the stopwatch. This McDonald’s has a past history of not acknowledging your presence at the speaker for a little while, but today, they were quick. From the time I gave the “voice” my order until the time I pulled away from the drive-thru lane was 4:10 seconds.
Not terrible, but certainly not like McDonald’s used to be. In the early years of McDonald’s the McDonald’s brothers (yes, this is how McDonald’s got its name) set up the “Speedee Service System“, complete with a mascot. Under this system, every employee had a particular task to perform, with the result of being served in under 60 seconds. Up until the 90s, you could pull up to a McDonald’s drive-thru and expect to be out in under 60 seconds. There was a digital clock showing your time. In fact, the crew members (employees) would get bonuses if they met a quota of how many cars met this goal. The early ’90s was a huge turning point for McDonald’s where they started to serve more “healthy” food options. Long gone is the deep-fried crispy apple pie, that you knew was going to burn the inside of your mouth, but you bit into it regardless. During that same time frame, McDonald’s stopped using beef tallow to cook their fries and switched to 100% vegetable oil. The result of the new fryer oil, caused McDonald’s to lose sales, and the resulting french fries weren’t actually any healthier for you.
Wendy’s, which I haven’t been to in a long time, was the preferred stop for the day and my next drive-thru to test. It was 2 pm and there were 4 cars already ahead of us and I started the stopwatch as my wife pulled up to the speaker. The “voice” on the other end of the speaker, just didn’t seem to understand what his job function was. He kept asking stupid questions and wasn’t even sure where he was working. I mean the only restaurant that sells a frosty is Wendy’s, yet when my wife asked for a frosty, the “voice” answered back, “I don’t understand what you are asking”. My wife, being far more patient than I am, repeated her order, to once again, the “voice” asked for clarification. At this time, my wife is getting less patient, and she said “you know, a chocolate frosty”. I guess either the “voice” finally understood, or just gave up. Throughout the ordering process, the”voice” kept stumbling over words, and menu items. He really struggled over unsweetened tea, and after he finally understood that, he dared to ask “so do you still want the two biggy bags?”
Alright you get the point, and we finally made it to the windows some five minutes later, and the entire process took a little over 7 minutes, and amazingly our order was accurate. This was actually my second attempt at Wendy’s as I left the line a few weeks ago after waiting for 10 minutes and the line didn’t move a single. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I had enough fun and decided to go somewhere else.
We have two KFCs in town, however, they both have incredibly slow service. We eat at KFC about once every two to three years. We like fried chicken and I love KFC’s biscuits, but because they are so slow and nasty that we just don’t frequent them. When I say nasty, I’m not talking about the food, but more so the overall cleanliness of the restaurant. But I can say that the last two times we were there was both drive-thru and they were incredibly slow, I’m talking around the 10-minute mark. We haven’t visited them since the pandemic, so maybe they got faster, but I doubt it. Many of our local fast-food restaurants have actually had to resort to either closing early, switching to drive-thru only, or closing every other day, as they can’t seem to find anyone that wants to work for a living.
Burger King / Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
I haven’t eaten at a BK in years, I just don’t like their food, the same applies to Hardee’s. In fact, I have only eaten at Hardee’s twice in my life. It was just Ok, nothing special. We don’t have a Carl’s Jr. in our area.
Now, let’s test Chick-fil-A and see how that experience goes. I pulled up to the long line of cars, wrapped about the building, as I got closer to the location where I give my order, the lane split in two (several Chick-fil-A’s in my area have three lanes of cars). I approach the young girl who is taking orders, no “voice” here, I’m actually talking to a person, a person who is pleasant to talk to, a person who seems to like their job, a person who is polite. Before I gave my order, I started the stopwatch, at 8:55:04 (this particular Chick-fil-A is open until 10 p.m.). I give her my order and was instructed to pull behind a particular car. I’m a good 10 cars away from the window. The line is constantly moving at a slow pace, but it is moving. After some time, I reach the window I’m handed my drinks and asked if I would like a drink holder. Then I’m handed my food and was told to “My Pleasure” when I told them to thank you and I pulled away and stopped the timer. It took 395:22 seconds, which is 6 minutes and 35 seconds, which was indeed slower than my recent Taco Bell experience, but Chick-Fil-A had a good 15-20 cars ahead of me. Not to mention that the who experience was pleasant.
Sure enough, the article does take into consideration that Chick-fil-A had long lines of cars in the drive-thru, but they didn’t highlight it, instead, they made it sound like Chick-fil-A is just slow. In fact, the study points out that Chick-fil-A had 4.74 cars on average in its drive-thru, while the other 10 chains in the study, averaged a combined 2.76 cars in line. But the headlines state “Chick-fil-A has the slowest drive-thru, study says. Another chicken chain comes in No. 1”
I just wish these so-called, “Journalists” would report the facts and keep their damn personal beliefs and politics out of it.
Taco Bell #2
Just to make sure that my Taco Bell test wasn’t a fluke, I did it again, this time it was 1:27 p.m. and there were four cars in front of us. We pulled to the speak and the “voice” was very calm, professional, and polite. I gave her my order and she accurately conveyed back and we moved forward, and that is where the rest of the visit turned into one-in-a-million to trash really quickly. Once we moved forward, that is where we sat for nearly 10 minutes.
When we finally made it to the window and got our food (which was 100% accurate), I pulled away and stopped the clock. It was 10 minutes and 1 second this time. I think you need to work on that Taco Bell.
This visit was at 3:45:03 pm, there were zero cars in front of us, and they managed to take my order, and money and get my fries to me in just over 1 minute and 19 seconds. Now, this is a goal to strive for and make as normal.
Closing: I wanted to state that this is an abnormally high amount of eating out at fast food restaurants. I wanted to state that this was over a three-week period and most of the visits, were just for this post.
If you want to nerd out on the actual times QSR Magazine got in their tests, you can read more details in this Food & Wine article.
I also want to state that the quality and speed of service vary greatly with the time of day, day of the week, and most importantly location.
Update (10/30/2022) – I went to Chick-fil-A the other morning and there were three cars in front of me, I pulled up to the speaker at 6:14:43 AM and got my food at 6:17:07 AM, which is under 3 minutes. Great Job Chick-fil-A.
Supporting Actor Spotlights – Anne Ramsey